Leighton Flowers Takes Advantage of Reformed Teachers’ Confusion on Compatibilism

Leighton Flowers is a pastor and staunch opponent of Calvinism, using his blog site and podcast to critique Calvinistic doctrines and teachers. In his post called Does God Bring About The Abuse Of Children For His Own Glory?, Flowers argues that teachers and authors like John Piper, John MacArthur, and Justin Taylor engage in a type of doublespeak when they talk about God’s sovereignty. On the one hand, it appears that they affirm that God actively controls all things, but on the other hand, because of their compatibilism, they affirm that God passively determines sin and evil. So whereas Piper is quoted as saying:

God . . . brings about all things in accordance with his will….he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory”

John MacArthur is quoted as saying:

“God’s role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work”.

In response, Flowers asks a simple question:

“So, which is it?”

The difference presented in these two quotations is that God either (1) actively brings about the events he ordains, or he (2) passively permits evil agents to bring about the events he ordains. Since active and passive are mutually exclusive, one must be affirmed and the other must be denied. The fact that two leading Calvinist teachers have made unclear statements on the issue, Flowers asserts, demonstrates the confused state of Calvinist theology, and it ought to be abandoned in favor of libertarian free will. What I would first like to do is to make a few comments about Leighton Flowers, explicitly state his arguments, and then give my own theological analysis of these important issues.

Leighton Flowers

It is difficult for me to have respect for anyone who knowingly places their preferences over the teaching of scripture. What I mean is that Leighton Flowers (along with Roger Olson) begins with an assumption that cannot ever be corrected with scriptural teaching. For Flowers, it does not matter what scripture says; his prior biases must be true in order for him to continue in the faith. So, rather than renouncing Christianity, Flowers prefers to remain in Christianity by intentionally conforming it to his own preferences. In a comment response on his blog post, Does God Hate The Unborn?, Flowers says he would rather burn in Hell forever than believe in divine election. He says,

“I wish not to be saved by a god who would do this. I’d rather burn.”

Here is the full text of this section of his comment for your reference:

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 4.14.05 PM

Flowers follows Roger Olson in placing emotional intuition as the evaluative criterion of theological doctrine. Calvinism cannot be true because the emotion that it evokes within him is not a feeling of awe or praise, but it evokes in him a feeling of abhorrence and repulsion. In order for God to be acceptable to Flowers, God must make Flowers feel good. The justification for all of this is that God created human beings with emotions, and so these emotions must be sufficient to delineate true doctrine from false doctrine.

Of course, my emotions are the opposite, along with many other believers. I could just as easily say that Flowers’ libertarian free will god is repulsive to me, and therefore my rejection of his god is justified on the same grounds. His emotions are no more or less valid than my own. However, one of the most basic truths of the Christian faith is that it does not matter what we feel: truth is truth whether we like it or not. Those who intentionally place their emotions as judge over God’s word attempt to formulate a theology “to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3). We must strive to conform our passions and intellectual predispositions to the teaching of the Bible, not vice-versa.

The bottom line is that Flowers emphatically cannot believe in a God who predestines some to glory and others to Hell. It does not matter if scripture teaches it; it cannot be true. Hence, his authority is not scripture, but what he thinks scripture ought to teach.

The Article

Back to the article, Flowers’ thesis is very similar to Jerry Walls’ presentation, called, “What’s Wrong With Calvinism“, and so I will formulate Flowers’ argument along the same lines. The argument Walls makes goes something like this:

(1) Traditional Calvinists believe in compatibilism as stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith;

(2) Compatibilism states that free will is compatible with divine determinism;

(3) However, this free will is not true freedom, since it is not freedom from God’s determinative control but only free in relation to the individual’s desires;

(4) God still predestines people to Hell in compatibilism, since compatibilist free will is an arbitrary kind of free will;

(5) It’s absurd to say that the Calvinist God loves everybody in any meaningful way, since he still ordains the damnation of the reprobate;

(6) God clearly loves everybody and wants to save everyone, as even John Piper and D.A. Carson confess;

(7) Therefore, Calvinism should be rejected in favor of libertarian free will theology.

In a similar way, Flowers’ objection in his article involves him arguing the incoherency of compatibilism in the context of Reformed theology. Within compatibilism, God still predestines and controls all things, so in what sense can God be passive? Also, since God must not be the author of sin, how can Calvinists maintain their determinist position without making God the cause of sin and evil? As Flowers concludes, not only is our theology supposedly contradictory, but our teachers also contradict one another:

“Do you see the contradiction as it exists even within the ranks of Calvinism?”

Thus, he concludes by saying that Calvinism devolves into irreconcilable contradictions and nonsense. As a result, Flowers proposes a different theology. We ought to reject determinism in favor of libertarian free will in order to overcome these theological difficulties.

My Solution

There are aspects of the above argument that I wholeheartedly agree with, but I absolutely reject Flowers’ and Walls’ solution. It is true that most Calvinist teachers and theologians (at least the popular ones) are confused on these matters and end up contradicting themselves and one another. They sometimes respond by appealing to the fact that they are trying to do justice to all scriptural teaching, and that this synthesis necessarily involves profound difficulties like paradoxes, mystery, and apparent contradiction. Take, for instance, Louis Berkhof’s comments in his systematic theology about God’s providence over creation and salvation:

“God decrees to sustain [people’s] free agency, to regulate the circumstances of their life, and to permit that free agency to exert itself in a multitude of acts, of which some are sinful. For good and holy reasons He renders these sinful acts certain, but He does not decree to work evil desires or choices efficiently in man. The decree respecting sin is not an efficient but a permissive decree, or a decree to permit, in distinction from a decree to produce, sin by divine efficiency…The problem of God’s relation to sin remains a mystery for us, which we are not able to solve.” (Berkhof 116-117)

Berkhof begins by repeating the traditional doctrine of God’s passive control over sin and evil. This passive control is necessary to prevent God from being the author of sin. He then says that although this control is passive, God nonetheless “renders these sinful acts certain”. But this assertion immediately prompts us to ask: How is this possible? How can God passively control the sin of free creatures, yet also render their sinful actions certain? Berkhof never explains this, but instead skirts around the issue, saying that God’s relation to sin is a mystery that we are never able to solve, and therefore we will also never be able to know how God can passively render sinful actions certain. On this point, I agree with Flowers when he says:

“This all boils down to what a Calvinist means when he uses the word “PERMIT.” Like so many other words in our vocabulary, the Calvinist is forced to put a bit of a spin on the clear meaning of this term in order to maintain their systems [sic] presumptions.”

Although it’s ironic that Flowers would find fault with others distorting doctrines and definitions to suit their presumptions – since Flowers himself admits to committing this sin, being a necessary component of his theological methodology – he is right when he says that people like Piper, MacArthur, and Berkhof are guilty of purposeful ambiguity. When these teachers face this dilemma head-on, they are often guilty of incompetence and confusion. What could it possibly mean for God to passively render events certain? What could it possibly mean for humans to be free agents, yet our actions are certain? It appears to Flowers, Walls, and myself, that these teachers appropriate familiar bits of terminology for the purpose of pretending their doctrinal formulations avoid particular difficulties, when in reality they not only succeed in obfuscating the issues, but also fail to avoid the difficulties they pretend to solve.

Given these problems, a solution is needed not only to avoid the theological heresy of libertarian free will, but to also reform the traditional “Reformed” formulation of these doctrines. Both a positive and a negative position is needed to fully refute Flowers’ attack on Calvinism. That is, a full refutation would involve a reformulation of Calvinist doctrine to avoid these objections, and a refutation of the tenability of libertarian free will would be necessary. For the sake of space and time, I will only focus upon the positive position, or the reformulation of Calvinist theology to answer these objections. A reasoned denunciation of libertarian free will must be found elsewhere for the time being. I will try to give a structured and clear account of the reformulation I propose for Calvinist theology. Also, for the sake of space, I will not exegete key passages like Romans 9, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Matthew 23:37 in much detail, but rather, my purpose will be to prove the internal consistency of my reformulation of Calvinist doctrine.

1. Deny Compatibilism

Compatibilism must be denied not in favor of libertarian free will, but in favor of hard determinism. This is how I was able to agree with Flowers and Walls. We all agree that compatibilism is a useless and arbitrary category because it obscures the fact that it is, nonetheless, a determinist doctrine. Flowers quotes Phil Johnson as admitting:

Compatibilism is a form of determinism and it should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism.”

Although there are some Calvinists who may challenge Johnson’s statement, and although Johnson does not here explain what he means by “hard determinism”, this statement explains that compatibilism does not make individuals free in reference to God.

“Free” is always a relational word. “Free” always means “free from something”. In a compatibilist framework, as Phil Johnson later explains and as Jerry Walls presents in his video, to have “free will” only means that individuals are free in reference to fulfilling their internal desires. It is not that I am free from God determining my actions, but that when I make these decisions to fulfill my desires, it is not done contrary to my will. Hence, when libertarian free will advocates say “free will”, they mean to say that they are free from God’s determinative control, whereas when compatibilists say “free will”, they mean to say that their wills are free to fulfill their desires.

Compatibilists are guilty of equivocation. To say that “free will” is compatible with divine determinism is a trivial claim, because this free will is not the same type of free will spoken of by libertarian free will advocates. To say that free will is compatible with divine determinism means nothing more than people make choices that are free in reference to their desires, and that God determines these desires and choices in the first place.

The only reason the Reformed tradition has clung to compatibilism is because these theologians believe that free will is a necessary prerequisite to moral responsibility. Many object that there is a tension between God’s sovereignty and humanity’s moral responsibility. Compatibilism is suppose to resolve this tension. Phil Johnson explains,

In order to understand [this problem] better theologians have come up with the term ‘compatibilism’ to describe the concurrence of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.”

The function of the doctrine of compatibilism is to invent an equivocal notion of free will that will justify human responsibility. However, compatibilism fails to justify human responsibility given these premises, since compatibilism posits the existence of a different form of free will that has nothing to do with the original assumption. The original assumption is that free will is a necessary prerequisite to human responsibility. The “free will” spoken of in that statement is recognized by everyone to mean “free from God’s determinative control”. The Reformed tradition has not attempted to solve this issue, but has rather redefined the words of this original assumption. It would be like me redefining “free will” to mean “fingers”. Since I now have free will (i.e. fingers), I am therefore responsible to God for my actions. Or, I can redefine “free will” to mean “my will is free from a squirrel in Alaska”. Since I now have free will (i.e. my will is free from a squirrel in Alaska), I am therefore responsible to God for my actions. Compatibilism’s equivocal solution to the problem of human responsibility is fallacious. The problem remains unsolved given these premises.

The conclusion to all of this is that determinism is absolutely incompatible with both free will (properly defined) and the assumption that free will is the necessary prerequisite for human moral responsibility. Since this is the case, Calvinists ought to deny both. Humans are not free from God’s determinative control, and free will is not necessary for human responsibility. Those who say free will is necessary in order for humans to be accountable to God do not derive this principle from scripture. This assumption cannot ever be justified from a scriptural perspective.

The reason humans are morally culpable for their actions is because God chooses to hold us accountable. God is the moral standard. God does not bow down to moral standard external to himself, but rather, God himself establishes the rules of morality. God is just to hold us responsible for the things he determines us to do. To object to this is to echo the rhetorical question Paul poses in Romans 9:19, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?'” Why does God still hold us accountable even though he is the one that determines our actions in the first place? Because he’s God and he has the right to to with his creation whatever he wants, and he is righteous for doing so.

In conclusion to this section, compatibilism is a doctrine that was invented to solve an non issue. All determinists, indeed all Christians, ought to deny that freedom from God is the necessary prerequisite to being held morally accountable by God. This assumption cannot be substantiated by scripture, but only by rationalistic conceptions of morality. This assumption also denies divine determinism in the first place. Since God clearly holds us morality accountable, to say that we must be free from God’s control for responsibility to be possible is tantamount to denying determinism. Compatibilism is an attempt to maintain a determinist position while conforming itself to a position which denies divine determinism by definition. Compatibilism is either fallacious, or irrelevant. It is a useless theory that has been proposed as a solution to a problem that is no problem at all, and which it cannot solve within a deterministic framework. Therefore, compatibilism should be disregarded.

2. Deny That God Loves Everyone and Wants All Saved

I affirm the 5th point and deny the 6th point of Flowers’ and Walls’ argument above. To say that God loves everybody and wants all saved, including the reprobate, is either a deceptive play on words, or it is absurd. Whereas these men accept God’s universal love and desire to save everybody as unquestionable, I deny both. Both assume that compatibilists will not want to go to my end of the Calvinist spectrum, regarding it as extreme. However, calling my position extreme or “hyper-Calvinism” is not refutation. Calvinists who refuse to admit that God hates the reprobate and doesn’t desire to save them for fear of being called “hyper-Calvinists” are both cowardly and intellectually dishonest. I will first discuss God’s will, then I will discuss God’s love.

a.) Reformed theologians such as John Murray have traditionally made two distinctions concerning the will of God. God has both a “decretive will” and “prescriptive will”. God’s will of decree is also sometimes referred to as his “secret will”, which often confuses non Calvinists and prompts them to mock us without end. The distinctions between these two wills is nothing but this: God’s decretive will refers to what God has eternally ordained to come to pass, and God’s prescriptive will merely refers to his commands. Often God’s “decretive will” contradicts his “prescriptive will” when he ordains sin and evil, like in Acts 4:27-28 where the saints confess that God predestined the actions of those who crucified Jesus.

This is why using the word “will” of both of these is problematic, since people who are ignorant of these issues will assume that Calvinists assert that God contradicts his own will, or that God is schizophrenic (Jesus says in Matthew 26:39, “not as I will, but as you will”, but this is a case of Christ’s human will submitting to the divine will of the Father, which is a separate issue). God’s “decretive will” and his “prescriptive will” are his will in two completely different senses. They are equivocal in meaning and not univocal.

The fact that both of these are God’s “will” in completely different senses helps to clarify the issue. In the context of God’s eternal decree, God does not will that all be saved, since he has decreed that not all will be saved. In the context of God’s commands, God does will for all to be saved, since he commands everybody to repent and turn to him in faith (Acts 17:30). To avoid confusion, we ought to call only God’s decretive will his will, whereas his prescriptive will is not necessarily what he decretively wills for us, but is what he requires of us. God’s prescriptive will is not his will for us per se, but is rather a list of moral commands that he requires we obey, and if we do not obey it, we are punished.

Therefore, the only sense in which a Calvinist – who believes in reprobation – can say that God wills everybody to be saved, is either by contradicting his own theology, positing a contradiction in the will of God himself, or that God wills all to be saved by merit of the fact that he commands everybody to repent and believe in him. This last option is the only tenable option, since the previous two are irrational. This demonstrates the need to clarify our terminology. No sane Calvinist believes that God wills everybody to be saved in the same way that Arminians, etc., believe God wills everybody to be saved. Hence, we deny that God wills everybody to be saved. For Flowers and Walls to assert that we ought to believe God wills everybody to be saved merely asserts that which we dispute. Compatibilism is useless or irrelevant, and it still forces us to believe that God does not want all saved. This theological position is only problematic when judged according to the standard libertarian free will theology. Since we deny libertarian free will theology in the first place, we are not bothered by their objections.

b.) In the same way that God’s “will” had to be clarified, God’s “love” must be clarified also. There are two different senses in which God is said to love an individual. The first sense is God’s specific love for his covenant people, and the second sense is God’s general beneficence to the elect and reprobate alike by giving them sunshine and rain.

In the context of this first type of love, God only loves the elect because this love is identified with God’s intention to save them. Since God has only decreed the salvation of the elect, this proves that he loves the elect alone, and ipso facto hates the reprobate.

In the context of the second type of love, Jesus speaks about this love in Matthew 5:44-45,

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

The connecting word “for” indicates that Jesus gives a reason for why we ought to love our enemies. We ought to love our enemies since God makes the sun rise on his enemies, and also gives them rain. To clarify further, we ought to love our enemies because God the Father loves his enemies. He shows his love for them by giving them rain and sunshine. In the same way, Christians must show love for our enemies through acts of kindness.

Given these distinctions, God both loves and hates the reprobate. God hates the reprobate by merit of the fact that he has predestined them to eternal Hell, but he loves them in the sense that he gave them rain and sunshine while they were alive. Christians are likewise commanded to love and hate our enemies. Psalm 26:5, 31:6, 139:21-22 say:

“I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.”

“I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.”

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O LordAnd do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.”

Christians are commanded to mirror the character of God by loving and hating our enemies. We love unbelievers through our outward acts of kindness towards them, but we hate their sinful actions and beliefs. Their sinful actions, thoughts, and beliefs cannot be separated from the unbeliever’s identity, and so we hate the unbeliever as a person. We ought to hate those who hate the Lord as Psalm 139 indicates.

Therefore, there are at least two different senses in which God and Christians can love. For Christians, one type of love involves external actions of general beneficence, and the other involves our stance in relation to another’s identity as defined by their actions and thoughts. For God, one type of love involves external actions of general beneficence, whereas the other type of love involves God’s intention to save an individual. For the latter definition of love, Calvinists by definition deny that God loves everybody. When any Calvinist says they believe God loves everybody, they either assert this in a non salvational sense, or else they believe that God simultaneously loves and does not love the reprobate, which is absurd.

When a free will theologian demands a Calvinist to tell them if they believe God loves everybody, there are at least two options: (1) The free will theologian uses the word “love” in relation to salvation, but the Calvinist will answer using “love” in relation to God’s general beneficence. What results is verbal confusion. (2) If the free will theologian and the Calvinist use the word “love” in the same sense, and if the Calvinist affirms that God loves everybody, this Calvinist is irrational.

Therefore, God does not love everybody, and neither does he will everybody to be saved. Theologians like John Piper and John MacArthur are either extremely confused, or applying secondary definitions to these words without telling anyone how they are defining them.

3. Affirm God Actively Causes All Things

To say that God passively determines anything is meaningless. It is self-contradictory. To say that God determines something is to say that he actively causes it and vice-versa. Berkhof had to appeal to mystery to support his claim that God permissively renders sinful actions certain, because it does not make sense. In opposition to libertarian free will, and in opposition to these Calvinist teachers, we ought to affirm that God is never passive in his control of events, but rather, is always active.

The only reason given by the Reformed tradition for why God cannot actively cause sin and evil is because this makes him the author of sin. The phrase “author of sin” is metaphorical and vague, so I will explicitly define author of sin as “God himself actively causes all evil”. Because this is unacceptable, yet God still ordains whatsoever comes to pass, the Reformed tradition has postulated that God must decree sin passively without actually actively causing it. So the question now is this, how can I affirm that God actively causes all things without making God the author of sin?

The answer is obvious: I don’t try. In fact, according to my definition above, I affirm that God is the author of sin. Just like the previous assumption, that free will is the necessary prerequisite of moral responsibility, believing that God cannot be the author of sin is an unwarranted and unbiblical claim. The Bible emphatically teaches that God causes all sin and evil.

John MacArthur is quoted as saying:

“Many Scriptures affirm that God is not the author of evil…Occasionally someone will quote Isaiah 45:7 (KJV) and claim it proves God made evil as a part of His creation: ‘I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.’

But the New American Standard Bible gives the sense of Isaiah 45:6-7 more clearly: ‘There is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.’ In other words, God devises calamity as a judgment for the wicked. But in no sense is He the author of evil.”

I do not assert that “God made evil as a part of his creation”. That is a non sequitur, but I do affirm that God actively caused the Fall of Adam. Notice how MacArthur is not giving us the full story. He says that the NASB gives us the better sense of the Hebrew word “ra” when instead of being translated as “evil” in the KJV, the NASB translates it as “calamity”. He implies that the verse cannot be teaching that God creates moral evil, but only natural calamities like famines and earthquakes. But this is completely false. The word “ra” is used to speak about sin and moral evil throughout the Old Testament. Here are just a few of the verses that use “ra” in this moral sense:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

“And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21)

“But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.” (Genesis 38:7)

The Hebrew word “ra” is a catch-all term that can denote physical disaster or moral evil. To say that the NASB translates the word more accurately is an arbitrary judgement which ignores the fact that the word is commonly translated as sin, wickedness, and moral evil. Therefore, from this basis, God does in fact create, form, and determine sin. But even if you do not accept this argument, the very form of the verse itself indicates this: No matter what the issue may be, God is the one who accomplishes (asah) all of these things. Whether it is light or darkness, God causes these and everything in between. He plans it, determines it, and causes it. God accomplishes (asah) all of these things; in the same way Ecclesiastes 3:14 teaches that,

whatever God does (asah) endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it…”

Therefore scripture teaches that God has eternally planned and determined whatever it is that comes to pass, actively causing it and bringing it about. This is the Biblical position.

Though God causes all sin and evil, this does not make God himself sinful and evil. One must begin with the assumption that God would be evil if he actively caused sin, but this assumption cannot ever be proven and is unbiblical. Once again, to be clear, even though God actively causes all sin, along with everything else, this does not make God himself evil, since God is not the agent performing the sin, but the one causing other agents to sin. God has never forbid himself from causing sin, and so he is not breaking any moral law that would cause him to be evil. On the contrary, God is the moral law, and is righteous by definition.

These premises necessarily entail an affirmation of equal ultimacy. R.C. Sproul describes this view disparagingly in his article “Double” Predestination. Equal ultimacy affirms that,

“There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God works in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative.”

Another way of describing the doctrine is in Berkhof’s terms, that God’s working of sin into the lives of all people is not merely a passive decree, but efficient. All of this is just another way of saying that God actively (NOT passively) causes his elect and reprobate to sin. God redeems the elect from the sin he actively causes them to commit, and God condemns the reprobate for the sin he actively causes them to commit, as Sproul comments again:

“This…positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do.”

Whereas Sproul has a serious qualm about the doctrine, I assert that this is what scripture teaches, and any other reading of Romans 9 is erroneous and nonsensical. God does not passively create vessels of wrath or passively fit them for destruction. There are countless places in scripture that teach God actively causes people to sin. He hardens hearts to make people believe lies (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12), he causes rulers of nations to invade other nations in a wicked manner (2 Kings 19:25), and he actively caused the Pharisees to have murderous thoughts leading to Christ’s death (John 11:51, Acts 4:27-28). I will not provide an exhaustive list of these verses since I have written enough already, but these are a sample of the verses that prove my position.

To recap, the only reason compatibilism exists is to create an equivocal notion of free will to justify human responsibility. However, not only does this not solve the problem, but the problem is itself false. Free will is not necessary for moral responsibility to God, therefore free will can be rejected with no harmful repercussions to our theology. This faux free will that compatibilism provides us with is also necessary to prevent God from being the author of sin. God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, yet he passively ordains sin so as to prevent him from being the author or cause of it. However, there is no problem or contradiction with saying God actively causes sin. In fact, scripture explicitly teaches it in several places like in Isaiah 45:7. God actively causes evil, but this does not make God evil, since God has never commanded himself to not cause evil and then break this law that he commands himself. As for God’s universal love and will for all to be saved, this is either a verbal miscommunication, or is an example of inconsistency on the part of the individual Calvinist.

This is my answer to Leighton Flowers, to all Calvinists everywhere, and to all who believe the name of Christ. Some may argue that this reformulation is to drastic to still be called “Calvinism”. If this is the case, then I gladly accept the implications. If “Calvinism” is necessarily related to compatibilism and attempting to solve pseudo problems, then I deny Calvinism in favor of my reformulations and clarifications. To affirm libertarian free will is to believe in an incompetent and fickle god, whereas to believe in compatibilism as formulated by the Reformed tradition is either superfluous or internally incoherent. This position that I have presented is the only consistent and Biblical position. Glory to God alone. Amen.

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40 thoughts on “Leighton Flowers Takes Advantage of Reformed Teachers’ Confusion on Compatibilism

  1. The semi-Arminians like Piper and others are full of contradictions. Only a thoroughgoing Calvinism that is logically consistent and systematic can refute Arminianism. The Arminians are at the basic level irrationalists.

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  2. Blake,

    I pray you are doing well. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my article.

    Two quick things in response. I want as many people as possible to come to understand your beliefs and the consistency of your logical arguments. You are a rare breed and I am happy to find your work. Like Walls argues, if most people really understood what was under the meaning of the pleasant sounding rhetoric of the mainstream Calvinists today they would abandoned it in a heart beat (which I’m sure you would wear as a badge of honor; because for you the more replusive the so called “good news” is to the “heathen masses” the more it is validated in your logical construct.)

    But, in all seriousness, I do want your form of consistent Calvinism to be clearly understood. Your teaching serves my purpose very very well. Keep promoting consistency and logic of this framework. Keep pointing out the blanant obfuscation of the mainstream Calvinists and I’ll point as many people to your blog as I can.

    Secondly, your charge of my motive in abandoning Calvinism for Only emotive reasons might have some merit if I purposefully avoided the difficult Calvinistic proof texts like Eph 1, John 6 or Rom 9, etc, but given that I have covered the exegetical reasons for each of the Traditionalists interpretation of all these passage (and others) numerous times, any objective observer would find your accusation to be unfounded. Believe it or not but both “sides” have exegetical commentaries on all the passages in question and do not necessarily only have emotive reasons to fall back on.

    Blessing brother,
    Leighton

    Liked by 1 person

    • “which I’m sure you would wear as a badge of honor; because for you the more replusive the so called “good news” is to the “heathen masses” the more it is validated in your logical construct.”

      People’s repulsion is neither here nor there. It is irrelevant to me, and I do not wear my beliefs as a badge of honor, but I believe them because I think scripture teaches it and because it is true. I don’t care about being placed in a special minority group of people. That is not my intention.

      “Secondly, your charge of my motive in abandoning Calvinism for Only emotive reasons”

      I do not claim that you do not provide alternate views for these texts, but rather your prior biases cause you to purposely look for these alternate interpretations. We certainly all have biases, but there are those like myself that do not wish to intentionally turn my biases into a hermeneutical methodology, and then those like you who openly say that you would rather go to Hell then believe a possible (and likely) teaching of scripture. I recognize that you have your own views and have never denied that.

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      • My declaration of rather perishing was said after coming away from Calvinism to a place where I see its error (from my perspective). Just as Paul wished himself accursed for his fellow countrymen (Rm 9:1-3) I would wish myself accused for the reprobate if such people exist.

        Think of this. If Calvinism is true then in Rm 9 Paul is wishing reprobates were saved and he was lost. Paul is wishing Gods will wasn’t done while under inspiration, if Calvinism is true. Paul would rather be cut off from his own God than for His God to reprobate his fellow countrymen.

        Is that Pauls bias coming through? Or just his desire that all come to repentance and faith so as the be made alive in Christ?

        Liked by 1 person

      • “My declaration of rather perishing was said after coming away from Calvinism to a place where I see its error (from my perspective).”

        Exactly. But hypothetically, your comment said that you would rather burn in Hell forever than believe and submit to a God who elects and reprobates. You can say that you deny Calvinism for other reasons, but nonetheless, you could not believe it even if scripture taught it. That is problematic.

        “Just as Paul wished himself accursed for his fellow countrymen (Rm 9:1-3) I would wish myself accused for the reprobate if such people exist.”

        Okay. That doesn’t relate to your original comment that I quoted so I do not see the relevance. You said you would rather burn in hell than believe this God; rewriting the script now and saying that you would go to Hell on behalf of the reprobate wasn’t what you originally wrote, so I cannot comment on that.

        “Think of this. If Calvinism is true then in Rm 9 Paul is wishing reprobates were saved and he was lost.”

        He demonstrates he has no personal vendetta against the Jewish people. Sure.

        “Paul is wishing Gods will wasn’t done while under inspiration, if Calvinism is true.”

        His very willingness to trade places with them (which is exaggeration) demonstrates that these people were reprobates. So you could still try to argue incoherence within the text, but his comments show that the Jews he was speaking about were rejected by God with no hope of salvation, because they were and are reprobates, and because divine election and predestination is true.

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      • Blake, scripture (using proper hermeneutics) led me to believe Calvinism is in error. And IF it is in error then of course I’d rather suffer myself than believe and teach a view of God that in any way wrongly represents His character and loving provision for the everyone. I’d rather suffer than led men astray, something a Calvinist doesn’t believe he is actually able to do given that Gods salvation of his elect is irresistible. Yet, the warning of scripture about leading others astray is quite evident (it involves a millstone).

        I take those warnings seriously because I believe they are representing something that is actually possible, something Calvinist erroneously deny based upon a philosophical systematic

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Blake! I hope you do more research on the various uses of the word “will” in their Scriptural contexts, both θελω and Βουλομαι and their cognates and OT counterparts. You may become interested to discover that God is still making decisions and has been since creation. The concept of all things predetermined before creation is a philosophical assumption necessary to Calvinism, which is also extrapolated from Scriptural inferences without clear statements from Scripture in support. Unfortunately that assumption undermines the normal contextual understanding in Scripture of all the conditional statements, universal invitations, and verses about God still making decisions.

    Its not that your understanding of sovereignty is not logically possible for God to perform, it is just that your understanding does not best represent the perspicacious revelation of what God did and is doing.

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    • God cannot still be making decisions in the sense that he changes or takes in new information. His knowledge of all things is intuitive and dictates events. So any understanding of “will” which affirms these is either of a different type and therefore irrelevant, or it’s a misunderstanding. But no, I do not yet know the original languages.

      To say that God “chose” or “willed” to kill many Israelites through plagues in Numbers, for instance, was not decided in time but in eternity. God prepared and actively caused all events leading up to any “decision” he appears to make within the context of historical events. God has already decided in eternity. Any decision that God makes which makes it seem as if he makes decisions of the fly is anthropological, in the same way God is described as having an arm. In the common way, sure, God makes decisions according to events that take place in history, but in the rigorous and more correct sense, God has eternally decided everything, and all things that come to pass is just the outworking of this eternal decree which has no historical date.

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      • Thank you Blake for your kind reply. I hope you will reread what you wrote from the perspective that you definitions for omniscience, immutability, and eternity are all borrowed from philosophy causing the normal reading of Scripture in many cases to be declared “anthropomorphic”. Yes there are those anthropomorphisms in poetic Scriptures, but I was referring more to biblical narrative which is history, and of God’s self-declaration in it.

        Here are the best verses, I have found, that show God makes choices, decisions of His will, and plans after creation. He could have easily revealed (stated in Scripture) that all these choices had already been made before creation, if that were truly the case. But revealing them as He has shows that such was not the case, or else you will have to admit He is being deceptive.

        Deut. 12:5 But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses…
        2 Chr. 6:5 ‘Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city … nor did I choose any man …. Yet I have chosen Jerusalem… and I have chosen David
        Psa. 25:12 Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
        Psa. 47:4 He will choose our inheritance for us…
        Psa. 65:4 Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.
        Psa. 75:2 When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly.
        Isa. 14:1 For the LORD … will still choose Israel
        Ezek. 20:5 Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day when I chose Israel
        Dan. 5:21 …the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.
        Jer. 18:11 …‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you.”
        1 Cor. 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

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      • Omniscience and immutability are words not found in scripture that scripture explicitly teaches. When it says all wisdom and knowledge is hidden in Christ in Colossians 2:3, it states that God knows all things. Furthermore, the events of the word come about as a result of God’s knowledge. God has no counselors, and your scheme suggests that God learns and changes based upon a simple grammatical misunderstanding.

        When he says “I am devising disaster against you”, this is compatible with God’s eternal decree and immutability, because it isn’t stated in the context of eternity, but in a common way of speaking. God may simultaneously say “I am devising a plan against you” and also say, for instance, what 2 Kings 19:25 “have you not heard I determined it long ago?” The word translated “determined”, if I am not mistaken, is the same Hebrew word used in Isaiah 45:7 and Ecclesiastes 3:14. It mean “done” or “accomplished”. And let me just quote you Ecclesiastes 3:14 again,

        “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:14-15‬)

        Notice the externality of all God accomplishes or does. Nothing can be added or taken away. His decisions are eternal.

        Also many of your examples don’t even indicate temporal decisions. “the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses” does even hint when this decision takes places, either in time or eternity. So verses like these are non sequiturs that don’t demonstrate anything one way or the other.

        Once more, Psalm 65:4 doesn’t enter into a discussion of when he chooses people to approach him. Ephesians 1:4-6 tell us that it is in eternity.

        Your comments are similar to people that try to prove free will by giving me proof texts of verses that have the word “choice” in it. Your verses do not necessitate your conclusions that God does not know anything, and indeed, they are irrelevant.

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      • Hi Blake, Thank you for attempting to respond to the evidence I provided to support my premise that Calvinism has borrowed from philosophy its dogmatic definitions. Their definitions about immutability, eternality, omniscience, and predetermination are used to reinterpret normally read and understood Scriptures that represent the tenor of Scripture and would only make sense if those definitions were modified by normal contextual meaning of those Scriptures.

        If you reread what I wrote and how you responded you will see that you gave more evidence to my evaluation.You said, for instance – “God cannot still be making decisions in the sense that he changes or takes in new information.” See how your chosen definitions for immutability and omniscience informs the meaning of those verses that I gave, instead of those verses informing the meaning of your definitions.

        Though the Scriptures I gave clearly say that He does still make choices (present or future tense), God could easily have said, “I have chosen” (that is before creation) in all those examples. But He didn’t. Why be so deceptive to those original readers of those verses? Didn’t He want them to know about His predetermination of all things before creation?

        The evidence you offered to establish those dogmatic definitions that the Calvinism leans on for immutability, eternality, omniscience, and predetermination was sparse. And if that evidence gave the best/clearest verses, those verses are still being used to prove too much, and do not clearly support those definitions. You said about “Colossians 2:3, it states that God knows all things.” 1John 2:20 states that believers “know all things”. It is what “knows all things” means that we are trying to define. We need more than just Col. 2:3’s statement of it.

        2Kings 19:25 says “long ago…from ancient times”, not “before creation”. So God can make a plan today, and in the distant future bring it about, stating then in the future – “in ancient times I made the decision to bring this plan about.” And even if 2Kings 19:25 is talking about ancient times as meaning before creation, it only proves this one event was planned. It doesn’t prove all human history was predetermined before creation. That extrapolation is not logically necessary.

        As for you saying – “The word translated “determined”, if I am not mistaken, is the same Hebrew word used in Isaiah 45:7 and Ecclesiastes 3:14.” This is a great example of how the ESV twists the original meaning of words to fit Calvinistic theology. The Hebrew word in all three texts is from the very normal word – עָשָׂה – “he did.” To translate it as “determined” is theological, not literal. Though the context infers what He did was to plan the event long ago, I would like translators to remain literal and let the context determine 😉 the meaning.

        Anyway, Isaiah 45:7 and Ecc 3:14 both have God doing things in present time that can not be altered or accomplished by man. Those contexts don’t actually even hint to what happened before creation. Ephesians 1:4 does speak to that “time” before the foundation of the world, when the Son was chosen, as well as choosing of the destiny of those who would be put in Him. But the members of the Godhead were the only ones that existed to be chosen from back then. You and I did not exist back then.

        It really is the definitions of immutability, eternality, omniscience, and determination (God’s free will) that you need to consider from a more biblical perspective. I would love to try to answer any questions you may have for me or discuss any Scriptures. But if you have no questions or Scriptures to discuss, you can have the last word in this dialog between us.

        But consider this – “The Word was God… the Word became flesh.” I am sure you do not think those statements are anthropomorphic in meaning. Yet they indicate a change for God in His experiential knowledge as well as His nature in some way. There are certainly immutable aspects to His nature, but the definition of immutability has to be modified by the meaning of the incarnation. If you are willing to do that Blake, you should become more willing to align the other definitions of eternality, omniscience, and determination (divine free-will) to Scripture also if it is your final authority, and not the musings of other theologians or your own.

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      • you say: Your comments are similar to people that try to prove free will by giving me proof texts of verses that have the word “choice” in it.

        I agree with your general take on omniscience but this statement is unfounded and unfair. I don’t see a real correlation here, and you are confusing two different arguments. Yes, we can posit God does not mean in his Word *what it sounds like he says* because we have a doctrine we always read into it that trumps it (that sword cuts both ways, as Romans 9 can then have LFW). I wouldn’t even necessarily disagree with that, but determinism takes it so incredibly far. I’ve asked a Calvinist “What explicit statement in Scripture would prove free will exists for you? Would this work: ‘I the Lord your God have created Libertarian, autonomous, contra-causal, non-deterministic free will choices through a determination not determined by my secret decrees nor counsel from all eternity but solely determined by the creature alone’?” Guess what that Calvinist said to me: he said “there is no possible theoretical statement in Scripture that could prove free will.” Please, please, let that statement really sink in… how in the world can that kind of pre-commitment be considered a fair and unbiased exegesis of Scripture in any sense whatsoever? If you admit you read determinism into verses that really “sound” like LFW how is it not “equal weights and measures” for you to allow the possibility of reading LFW into verses that “sound” like determinism?

        bless

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      • “I don’t see a real correlation here, and you are confusing two different arguments.”

        I’m not confusing the arguments, I am saying they are analogous to one another. Both are predicated on a verbal misunderstanding, and so in both situations we have people quoting texts that have nothing to do with the topic, or otherwise do not necessitate their conclusions.

        “Yes, we can posit God does not mean in his Word *what it sounds like he says* because we have a doctrine we always read into it that trumps it”

        This is just poisoning the well. It’s not that I have this alternative doctrine that I get from my butt that I read into the texts, it’s that I am comparing scripture with scripture and see that it is impossible to say that the eternal, omniscient God of all things makes decisions in time and space, excluding the incarnation.

        “that sword cuts both ways, as Romans 9 can then have LFW”

        I don’t know what LFW means.

        As for the rest of your comment, I do not see how either your hypothetical question is relevant or how that individual’s response demonstrates anything theologically. If you are saying that we all have biases, I accept that. The difference I was drawing with Flowers is that he turned his emotions and preferences into a hermeneutical methodology, whereas I strive not to do so, and admit that reading our unsubstantiated biases into scripture is incorrect.

        “If you admit you read determinism into verses”

        I never said “I read determinism into verses”, but rather, since scripture teaches determinism and predestination everywhere, and since scripture is consistent, it makes not sense to read any part of scripture that denies the divine determinism it teaches.

        To say I am arguing my deterministic biases into scripture is begging the question until you can demonstrate that scripture doesn’t teach it.

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      • Wait. You just literally said you do read determinism into the verse, you just simply justified it with some external reasoning.

        Doesn’t that mean you essentially agree with my point, that if I felt LFW (Libertarian Free Will) could be as strongly inferred as you feel determinism is, I would be completely justified into reading it into passages that do not include a direct affirmation of it.

        bless

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      • “Wait. You just literally said you do read determinism into the verse, you just simply justified it with some external reasoning.”

        No I didn’t. And if you are going to say that I did, quote me.

        I clearly said that scripture teaches determinism, and therefore since scripture is internally consistent, no other scripture contradicts that. You would have to prove free will first from scripture, which you can’t ever do.

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      • But I can–and I’ve never had a Calvinist give me a good counter argument yet without making Scripture lie. How in Isaiah 5 does God express a desire for something he does not get after saying he did absolutely everything he could do? There is only one possible logical answer. God could have decreed his vineyard bring forth fruit, yet he says “What more could I have done O house of Israel that I did not do?” (Psst! Hey God I know! Decree it to bring forth fruit!) But God says “Why did it bring forth worthless fruit?” Think about that. If you can in good faith show me this passage is consistent with determinism I’ll become a Calvinist on the spot. No Calvinist has succeeded yet so you can be the first!

        There. I proved free will (within reason of what prove could possibly mean).

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      • Alright. Here’s the main argument: Under divine determinism (which means that God directly decrees all that happens by his will) God cannot ever say “I did all I could” and still not get what he wanted. God doing all he could is God getting what he wants, under a deterministic framework. So if God did all that God was capable of doing, and still didn’t get what God desired, we are going to have to posit something is outside of God’s control. Can you follow that line of reasoning at all? I can break it down more.

        Typically Calvinists will answer that God was speaking “poetically” and “non-literally” in a condescending fashion, as one would talk to a baby going “goo goo, gah gah,” and not actually conveying any real factual information. In fact that’s the only answer I’ve ever gotten, and I find it unsatisfactory. Because if the passage conveys a meaning, it cannot be factually untrue under the justification of “baby talk” or “figurative speech” as that makes God dishonest. Figurative speech does not give you the license to state something important in a factually untrue manner, in my view, and would call into question the ability to derive basic meaning. Also the argument from figurative speech could be turned against the Potter and Clay analogy as well.

        regards

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      • Which passage please? You’ve posted many comments. I don’t know why you are assuming that I know what you are commenting on. Give me a text and give me the argument from that text.

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      • My apologies—I’ve been doing this so long I assume everyone knows the source text. It’s called the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5. The relevant verse is Isa. 5:4.

        4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes? (Isa 5:4 NKJ)

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      • It’s an anthropomorphism. Obviously God did not expect something in the sense that he thought something was going to happen and then it didn’t happen. That would be a denial of God’s omniscience, it would be an acceptance of open theism, and it would be theological heresy. Since obvious God has declared the end from the beginning (which is a verse stated in this same book), we clearly cannot conclude that God is an incompetent idiot that doesn’t know the outcome of all things.

        That being said, you ask what it could possibly mean. God is saying that although he gave Israel the Law, he gave them the prophets and instruction, he performed before them at the time of the Exodus all of these sign and wonders, even though he did all these things, Israel still turned away. So, one had every reason to expect that they would bear fruit, but instead they became evil and wicked and worshiped false gods.

        Also, someone could twist this verse to mean that God has to consciously look at things and derive knowledge from looking. The word “expected” that your translation states, is “qavah” (Strong’s 6960), and can also mean to “look for”. If the verse was translated that God “looked for” their fruit, someone could just as absurdly claim that God takes in information through the senses like us. No. This is wrong.

        This is an anthropomorphic articulation of the reality that one had every reason to expect Israel would bear fruit, yet they did not. It is not saying that God lacks knowledge or power, but this verse is articulated in a human narrative to convey the fact that Israel was evil, in spite of their many blessings. None of this has anything to do with God’s knowledge, with free will, or with determinism. This text in particular simply makes no claims about any of that. Individuals like you rely upon confusion, ignoring the verses that blatantly refute your position, and then reading a novel, heretical, and impossible interpretation into a text that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

        Remember the words of Moses to Israel:

        “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4)

        THAT is a relevant text to our determinism discussion, since it is a text which actually talks about the fact that God controls people’s minds and understanding, whereas the text you cited is an anthropomorphism explaining that Israel has still rejected God even after all these blessings.

        The same goes for texts like Jeremiah 3:6-7:

        “The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.”

        Same situation.

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      • Okay give me a little time to unravel all of your statements you are making.

        First of all you equate God’s omniscience with God’s expectations. You imply that God cannot expect anything different than from what he knows will be. I’m sorry but that’s a logical fallacy. I can know my son will disobey me but still expect him to obey me. Expectations are not just what you probabilistically think will happen but also what you think should happen. Omniscience does not logically mean God causes all he knows; knowledge of a thing does not mean causation. Expecting something you know will not happen is not defined as incompetence. Again, that’s a fallacy. You are equating expectations only with knowledge of factual certainties and not with desire for a certain thing to occur. Thus I don’t need to accept Open Theism (a bit tired of Calvinists insisting on this).

        Look at what you say next: “what could it possibly mean… one had every reason to expect [good fruit], but instead they became evil.” To me, you saying this contradicts what you just tried to imply in the sentences before it, but illustrates how powerfully the text speaks for itself, that you realize God gave good input and judged a reciprocal response to that. You then talk about anthropomorphisms, and how they can’t be understood literally, because God does not have eyeballs or flesh and bones. I’d have assumed you would have the respect and graciousness to assume that I know God does not have literal eyeballs, a nervous system, and flesh and bones and blood. I don’t think it’s too much of a courtesy for you to give me that tiny amount of intellectual respect. But I insist the anthropomorphisms have to *mean* what information they convey. God does something very much like “looking,” God does something very much like “touching,” etc. That’s not “twisting” the verse—that’s reading the verse for what it says.

        You say “God had every reason to expect Israel would bear fruit, yet they did not.” I’m surprised you say that at all, because you violated and contradicted your first point again. You are saying God expects something that he himself not only *knows* won’t happen, but God expects the opposite of what God himself decrees and causes to happen. And you say I am the one twisting the plain meaning of Scripture? You say that for me to read the verse for what it says is for me to “rely upon confusion”? What?! So for you to make the verse say *what it does not say* is somehow less confusing? You say for me to read the verse *for what it says* is for me to “rely on a novel, heretical and impossible interpretation”? What?! How can I take that claim seriously, it’s a preposterous non-sequitur? I don’t want to judge your heart—but it seems you will say anything illogical to defend your position.

        You say: “None of this has anything to do with God’s knowledge, with free will, or with determinism. This verse is articulated in a human narrative (wtf is a human narrative?) to convey the fact that Israel was evil, in spite of their many blessings.” First of all, I never claimed it had to with God’s knowledge so that’s a red herring I don’t know where you got from. Second of all I can’t possibly agree with these statements, because they deny the plain meaning of words and the contextual interpretation of this passage of Scripture. God is speaking in his Word, and you are saying that for me to read what he says in the normal understanding of what words mean is “novel, heretical and impossible.” Think about that for a minute…

        Next you say I “ignore verses that blatantly refute my position.” Um, you are currently ignoring a verse that blatantly refutes your position. Name one verse I ignored? Because I didn’t ignore it. For you to assume me not accepting your interpretation is for me to ignore it feels disingenuous, does it not? Plus you are now practically flaming me in a desire to “poison the well” of my motivations through ad hominem attack. How could you possibly know my heart?

        So you say Deut. 29:4 is relevant because you feel it supports your position. Every text that touches a topic is relevant, not just ones that we think support our position. I’m sure you know that both verses you quoted fit an indeterministic hermeneutic in my view.

        Why could I not take Romans 9 and simply use your own logic and words on your own position of determinism? I could say your deterministic reading is “novel, heretical and impossible” because we are not literal pots and God is not a literal Potter, and it’s all “anthropomorphic” speech we must interpret in the clear light of Scriptures affirmation of autonomous free will.

        If you keeping making your debate about personal attacks and unsubstantiated assertions, it will be pointless for me to continue. I’m listening to your logic and I respect the courtesy of you listening to mine, and not just saying screw logic I’ll just say whatever I already believe no matter what.

        regards

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      • Look, I read your first sentence. This comment back and forth is a black hole for my time. I have no interest in any more long exchanges. I am a student and I’m trying to manage my school, work, social, and extra-curricular time well. This was fun, but I’m going to just stop here. Have a good day.

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      • You took the time to write an immensely long blog. You can’t take the time to be proven wrong.

        All I can say is that’s a pretty convenient use of time.

        regards

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      • Sir, given your numerous amount of comments, given the length of your comments, and given the length of my comments to respond to yours, I’d be doing nothing else all day. I answered one of your questions, so it’s obvious I’m not afraid to interact with you. To say that I’m afraid to be refuted is silly, childish, and a vacuous rhetorical tactic. There are other things in this life that I want to do than to be caught in this comment war – which I have given into before – where I respond to every single point, and nothing is gained by other party. Last response, I promise. Have a good life.

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      • Alright man, chill out. You seem to like to write a lot, so I didn’t think you’d go all crazy if I made some objections. Sheesh. I find your spirit a bit mean and un-Christlike to be honest, I think you should think about that if you claim to represent any branch of Christianity.

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      • also you say : therefore since scripture is internally consistent, no other scripture contradicts that.

        That is my very definition of “reading in” something that is not inherently stated. For example, due to Isaiah 5 & Rom. 11 etc., I read LFW into Romans 9 and see no contradiction with it.

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  4. I enjoyed your article and appreciated your willingness to reduce confusing terminology and doublespeak in an attempt to be more forthright and honest about making clear what you really believe. I hope many Calvinists follow suit. A few tiny quibbles:

    you say: The Bible emphatically teaches that God causes all sin and evil.

    you say: There are countless places in scripture that teach God actively causes people to sin.

    It might be helpful not to use the words “emphatically” and “countless” too lightly. First how can something be emphatic if it also declares the opposite to be true in places. And of the verses you quote, every one of them can be shown to be God reacting in judgment to a previous sin committed by humans (at the very least possibly). I think you need to be able to say, to prove your point, “there are countless places where God actively causes people to sin clearly without reference to any prior sin.”

    you say: To say that the NASB translates the word more accurately is an arbitrary

    A contextual reason cannot be arbitrary by definition. You can dispute the contextual understanding, but it’s not arbitrary.

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    • “It might be helpful not to use the words “emphatically” and “countless” too lightly.”

      I don’t use them lightly. It’s absolutely everywhere, which makes it all the more incredible that people cannot see it.

      “First how can something be emphatic if it also declares the opposite to be true in places.”

      Begging the question. The Bible doesn’t teach contrary to what I have said, and if you assert that it does, then you have to provide an argument. Let me see if you do.

      “And of the verses you quote, every one of them can be shown to be God reacting in judgment to a previous sin committed by humans (at the very least possibly).”

      Incorrect. God causes these actions in the first place which he supposedly reacts to. Also, God reacting implies that he is not omniscient, which you supposedly affirm, so this idea contradicts your theology too.

      “I think you need to be able to say, to prove your point, ‘there are countless places where God actively causes people to sin clearly without reference to any prior sin.'”

      No. I don’t. God causes every sin and everything without exception, no matter if “prior sin” exists or not. Your idea of “prior sin” doesn’t even seem to make sense since we are all conceived in sin, and so clearly we always have “prior sin” at every moment in our lives.

      “A contextual reason cannot be arbitrary by definition.”

      There’s nothing in the context which necessitates the reading of “calamity” as opposed to “moral evil”. The Hebrew word includes all of it. To choose “calamity” over “moral evil” for no conceivable reason is arbitrary.

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      • How does the fact we all have prior sin, make the idea of prior sin “not make sense”? What? That’s a non-sequitur. Can you help me understand what you mean. Thanks.

        You say that disagree with another’s understanding of the context. You could assert their understanding of the context is arbitrary and they could assert yours is arbitrary. This is not the same thing as giving a word a meaning without consideration to context, which is what arbitrary should mean… in that context.

        You say: Incorrect. God causes these actions in the first place which he supposedly reacts to

        You realize I could equally respond with “begging the question.” This is called not arguing in good faith—we need to understand that the other person always might have more to say about the topic, and ask them exactly what they mean.

        bless

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      • “How does the fact we all have prior sin, make the idea of prior sin “not make sense”? What?”

        It’s because I read you as saying that God only causes something insofar as there is or is not prior sin, but since there is always prior sin, there is not distinction between when God “reacts” (as you claim) and when God merely acts.

        “You could assert their understanding of the context is arbitrary and they could assert yours is arbitrary.”

        They didn’t justify that there was anything in the context which necessitated that reason. Since MacArthur gave no argument for why that translation was contextually necessary, and since “ra” is translated as “moral evil” in many many places, his choice was arbitrary. No reason was given, and the evidence I provided regarding the translation of that word contradicts what he was saying. Since his claim was baseless (based on nothing but assertion), it was arbitrary.

        I provide reasons, so no. You cannot just as easily say that I am being arbitrary, since I provide you with something that you have to first refute before you can say I am wrong.

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      • Okay, I stand corrected. I assumed MacArthur gave the standard reasons Arminians give, but he did not.

        I apologize for that presumption.

        Like

  5. Hi Blake
    Excellent article. In talking with my pastor (a compatiblist) I find it perplexing some of the things he says. Whereas God decreeing evil does not make Him the author of evil, but being the immediate cause of evil does, and thus makes God evil. Decree=God not evil, Immediate cause=God is evil. This with no real explanation, it’s just a mystery. Or the upholding of the decree but having no real explanation as to how evil is actualized, he denies LFW. It almost sounds like “stuff just happens”. The “permissive decree” just sounds like rank dualism to me, if God permits evil then some other power immediately caused it (people, satan, some mystery power?). If people, for instance, then God is ever modifying His plans to fix the mess and trying to work it to some good. If one denies consistent determinism, how does one know what is determine and what isn’t?

    A couple of questions for Arminians: did Nebuchadnezzar retain anything call “free will” in Daniel ch 4?
    Will we have LFW in heaven and if not, can it be a truly necessary part of our nature as humans?

    Like

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