A Strange Attempt at Answering My Questions for Arminians

This is a response to an individual who responded to my post More Questions for Arminians. I will provide my original question in bold, the response to my question in italics, and my response to his response in regular text. Hopefully there are limited typos.

1. Why do Arminians constantly object to the Calvinist conception of determinative sovereignty, saying that God would be a moral monster (as Roger Olson says) for planning and causing evil events, when Arminians also believe God has the ability to stop evil events and yet doesn’t stop them? Since both groups believe God permits evils and atrocities, aren’t Arminians objecting to their own god as well? Isn’t the only difference between Calvinism and Arminianism on this point is that the Arminian god has no purpose or greater plan for evil, while the God of Calvinism does have purpose for evil?

A. “I do believe that God has the ability to stop evil events. God had to ability and right to bring death upon Adam and Eve after eating of the forbidden tree, yet he chose to let them live even though great acts of evil would follow. I believe that he did this because he loved mankind more than he hated evil. The same concept stands today. Jesus can return and bring judgement and end all suffering, but God is being patient with the world, not willing that any should parish. (A better question would be: “Why doesn’t God care more about the temporal circumstances of believers than the eternal state of the unbeliever?” But I think the answer to such a question is obvious.)”

If God loves all of mankind more, than how come he allowed Adam and Eve to live, who then in turn produced the rest of mankind, most of whom will not be saved and go to Hell? God loved humanity so much that he would make it so that many will perish? It makes no sense to say that God wants none to perish, therefore that is why he allowed the Fall to take place and for Adam and Eve to live: to produce billions of other people, many who will not be saved. This does not answer the question. If God knew many would perish, then why did he create, ensuring that many will perish? Was God ignorant? Do you think God possesses cognitive dissonance when simultaneously he wants none to perish, yet he gives Adam a law knowing Adam will disobey, which will then plunge humanity into sin, death, and corruption? Also, does God love the individual in Hell more than he hates evil? Because Hell is the punishment of evil, so if your hypothesis was true, then God would save everybody and wouldn’t punish sin then, right? Well, only if you were consistent.

All of this ignores my question. My question was, how are Arminians or other free will theists justified in their objection to the determinism of Calvinism when the god of Arminianism eternally and passively knows what will happen, yet has no purpose for it, and does nothing to prevent it? Nothing in this answer proves that the free will theist objection against the God of Calvinism (and the Bible) holds any weight, since this same objection applies to the free will god. Since “God has the ability to stop evil events,” then why didn’t he stop the Fall? Why doesn’t he stop billions from going to Hell? If he wants all saved, and has the ability to save all, and he loves everyone so much, why doesn’t he do so? Obviously, even in your theology, God chooses not to save everybody, but for absolutely no reason. Why is that? How can you account for this? Your response is a non sequitur.

2. If events happen contrary to God’s will of decree, what higher power causes these events?

A. “Haha, trick question! No higher power exists. But a lower power… sure. I would like to actually answer this question, but I have no idea what you mean by “God’s will of decree.” Is it like a commandment? God said thou shalt not murder. People do murder. So people must be more powerful than God?”

What I meant by “God’s will of decree” is God’s will concerning events that he intends to come to pass. So if God intends one thing to happen, and it does not happen, what is this other power that nullifies God’s will? You say that this is a trick question, but it is actually a leading question. Why I phrased it this way is because God is the highest power in the universe. However, when God’s will is nullified, this would then necessitate that there is a power which is higher than God which nullified God’s will. If a lower power nullifies God’s will, this is absurd, because this lower power would not actually be a lower power, but a higher power than God, since it overpowers God. The only remaining option that I see is that God purposefully nullifies his own will by allowing or causing things to happen which he does not want to happen. However, this is likewise absurd, since this would mean that God wants what he does not want, and does not want what he wants, which is a contradiction. I would like for you to explain how this analysis is incorrect, or otherwise, what your theology explains upon this point.

As for your comments for whether or not this will that I spoke of refers to commands, no. That is what is called, or at least what I call, God’s will of command. God’s will of decree is what he predestines and determines; God’s will of command is his law and what he commands and morally requires of us. Often God predestines something contrary to his commands, in the case where he predestines sin. In the case of God predestining sin, God is not contradicting his own will, but that there is a distinction between what God morally requires of us, and what God determines to take place.

Or perhaps are you referring to the Reformist’s made up “secret decree of God.” In that case I would simply deny the existence of such a micromanaging decree. God is sovereign over, not controlling behind. Huge difference.”

I do not know what you mean by secret decree; I do not like that terminology since people like you tend to misunderstand it and then misrepresent it. I will need you to define what you mean by this phrase before I object to you denying it. As for the “huge difference,” you have yet to explain the difference between your “over” and “behind” wording. If by sovereign you do not mean that God controls everything, then why type of sovereignty is this? Now that I have defined my terms, define your terms as well, and also respond to my question.

3. Since classical Arminianism believes in original sin and the corruption of human nature so that we can neither do nor will to do any good apart from God, how do we have free will?

A. “I’m not a “classical Arminian” I try my best to be a Christian. I do not hold the doctrine of total depravity.”

If you are not an Arminian and if you reject that human nature is such that we can neither do nor will to do any good apart from God, then this question does not apply to you. And your faux pious answer that you just “try my best to be a Christian” either demonstrates your dishonesty, or that you are new to the faith. “Christian” has become a word that means literally everything and anything, so, by near necessity, there are new labels that people give to themselves so that we can know what they believe without having to guess. “Wesleyan,” “Calvinism,” “Arminianism,” or whatever the label may be, are some of these labels. Saying that you reject these labels upon the basis that you do not follow men, but God, either proves that you are either too new to the faith to know how you specifically define your theology, or it proves that you most likely do not have the intellectual capacity to accomplish this, or it means that you have been extremely ignorant of theology for a long time.

I see no reason why an ungodly man would be unable to make even one morally good decision.”

Because they are unregenerate and without faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Also, those in the flesh, without the Spirit, cannot obey God (Romans 8:7-8). So that’s why. Also the flesh profits nothing.

And I find it helpful to understand free will as “separate will,” not that we choose this or that, that we choose independent of God.”

So we chose independent of God? I am unclear about what this “separate will” is because you do not define your terms. Do we always make choices independent of God? What about the places in scripture that talk about God controlling people’s wills and actions?

4. Why did God only choose Israel and not the rest of the world to be his people? (There are obvious exceptions like Ruth and Rahab, but I mean generally speaking). Was God too incompetent to do so? Or did God only wish to make Israel his people? If God only desired to make only Israel his people before the New Covenant, then why do you believe that God tries and fails to save everyone?

A. “God choose Israel to show himself to the other nations of the world. It is through Israel that the law was given. Thus Israel was chosen by God and for God, but this does not mean that other nations were excluded from knowing God. Take Nineveh for example. All people from all nations have always been free to observe and worship God.”

No one was saying that Gentiles cannot be saved under the old covenant. This is why I referenced Ruth and Rahab, so your Nineveh comment is merely repeating what I already said. The question was why did God only choose Israel? You say that this was show himself to other nations of the world. Why didn’t God reveal himself to other nations in the world by giving them revelation? Or by saving them? Jesus said “for salvation is of the Jews,” which means that God gave them the law, and them the promises, and to them he gave the covenant, and from them came to messiah, and not to any other nation did he do this. Why? If God wants all saved, why did God only reveal himself in this way to Israel and not to all other nations? Eventually God saves people from all nations, but why did he specifically choose Israel if he equally loves everyone else? Arminianism cannot answer this.

5. If God knows the future by looking out to see what will happen irrespective of his will, doesn’t this mean that God’s knowledge is contingent upon something other than himself? And therefore not all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3)? How is it possible for their to be knowledge external to God?

A. “God’s knowledge of man is absolutely contingent upon man, to say anything otherwise would be a logical fallacy.”

You seriously think that God’s knowledge of his own creation is contingent upon creation? How is God’s knowledge contingent upon creation when creation didn’t even exist before God creating it? You are stupid enough to think that God’s knowledge depends upon an object that does not exist before God creates it? Please explain to us how God’s knowledge depends upon things that do not yet exist!

The fact that a deed or person exists is wholly dependent on the actual existence of the deed or person.”

The deed or person is dependent upon God’s determining of the existence of that thing or purpose. If knowledge of a thing is contingent upon the thing, then God cannot know the future since it does not yet exist, which would make you are heretic.

I could say, “unicorns are real,” but I would be incorrect.”

Non sequitur.

God could not say “unicorns are real,” because God cannot lie.”

Non sequitur.

Thus, because I exist God can know that I exist,”

“Thus” is a concluding word, meaning that this sentence should be logically connected to the previous sentences. To say that God cannot lie and then to conclude that God’s knowledge is contingent is completely disconnected. I could say I fart and therefore earthquakes happen in Japan, but there would be no logical connection. Likewise, this concluding assertion does not follow anything that you said previously.

For God to say that something exists or does not exist has nothing to do with whether or not his knowledge in contingent; if anything, this would only limit what God could declaratively say, not what he knows. However, everything that God says is true by definition, so God’s statements do not depend on an external criterion of truth, but since God is the one that defines reality in the first place; to say that what God says is true and cannot be false is tautological. God speaking truth is a part of what it means to be God. Unicorns, if indeed they do not exist, do not exist because God wants it that way. If God said unicorns exist, it would be true by definition. They do or do not exist depending on God’s will; God’s will and knowledge is not based upon superfluous and passive external events.

and because God exists outside of time he always knew that I would exist.”

This actually works against your confused contention since if God is outside of time, and if God eternally knew all things, then his knowledge could not be dependent upon those things which do not yet exist. God’s knowledge is based upon himself, and it is his knowledge of his own intentions and eternal decree of predestination that he knows all things. God is not dependent on creation; creation is dependent on God. You have yet to address how your false teaching jives with Colossians 2:3.

But do not fool yourself into thinking that I stem out of God’s knowledge of me. That is simply false cause.”

What does “stem out of” mean? The knowledge God has of you is based upon himself. God knows you through his own intentions and act of creation. No one is arguing that God’s mere knowledge is what spontaneously creates; the intention of God must be connected with the exemplars that he has of things in his mind. Aquinas had different categories for God’s knowledge. One is the knowledge of inoperables, virtually practical knowledge, actually practical knowledge, and I think one other category which I forget. Inoperables, if I am not mistaken, are the things which cannot be created due to its irrational or self contradictory nature. God also has virtually practical knowledge, which is his infinite knowledge of possible objects, or objects which are not self-contradictory, which he chooses not to create. And finally, actually practical knowledge is God’s knowledge of things that he actually chooses to create. This last category explains that God combines his knowledge with his intention and will. God’s knowledge never spontaneously creates anything due to itself, but only when it is combined with his will. This is why divine exemplars are defined in the following way: “That in reference to which something is made, according to the intention of the agent, who predetermines the end for itself.”

For more on this, read Aquinas on the Divine Ideas as Exemplar Causes by Gregory Doolan.

Because I exist in God’s universe I still depend upon the sustaining power of God to exist. If I did not exist he could only know me as a possibility.”

God knows things as possibilities when he chooses to not create these possible things. The category of whether or not something remains possible is based upon God’s will, not some external event out of God’s control. Nothing of what you said makes God’s knowledge contingent. God’s knowledge of possibilities does not conclude with God’s knowledge being dependent on creation.

Because I exist I can say with confidence that there has never been a time that God did not know the fact. Thus God does not learn, for nothing has been created apart from God.”

You have demonstrated that you do not know what you are rambling about, since this conclusion has nothing to do with proving how God’s knowledge is contingent, or what Colossians 2:3 means for that matter. You have not touched my question this entire time. To say that God’s knowledge is contingent is to make God not God. If God’s knowledge depends on creation, then God never knew you would exist until your conception. This is open theism and heresy.

6. What does the Lamb’s Book of Life metaphor mean in an Arminian context in light of Revelation 13:8?

A. “The book of life is a book that contains the names of everyone who, on the day of judgement, will be saved by the blood of Christ Jesus. This book can be considered literal and eternal in that it can contain the names of all believers before time even began. This does not mean that the believer is saved because his name is in some book,”

No one was arguing that believers are saved because their names are in the book, but that their names are in the book because God eternally predestined those individuals to be saved, and the book is a metaphor for election.

but rather the book acts as a contract, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” Matt 10:32.”

A contract? You have a bad habit of not defining words. A contract in what way? That we put in some effort in order to be saved? So for those whose names are not written, they aren’t a part of the contract then are they? Why aren’t they? Isn’t it because God didn’t write their name in the book? But if they are not a part of the contract, then by definition this means that they are not saved then, so the Lamb’s Book of Life has to do with salvation then, right? Why then this vacuous distinction between being engaged in a contract and salvation? How does this explanation prove that election is not true? Why were some written in the book before the foundation of the world and others not? If I do not know what you are talking about then you cannot pride yourself in thinking that this is a response.

Also, you have to explain your quotation. I could quote you any random Bible verse and then claim that you are somehow wrong, but unless I explain how the verse relates to my point, then my quotation would be useless. Indeed, your quotation is useless because you do not explain what you mean by “contract,” or how Matthew 10:32 relates to this undefined contract in the first place.

It would be a mistake to build a theology around man’s limited ability to understand cause and effect within the confines of time, but rather with God the effect can occur before the cause.”

Cause and effect of what? Of a contract? Of faith? Of election? Of salvation? What are you blathering about?

To say that “I became a believer because God had always known that I would become a believer,” does not do justice to God’s eternal state of existence.”

No one is making that claim. Every sentence that you produce is a non sequitur. I claim that people become believers according to the eternal purpose of God and his foreordained plan to glorify himself, and Revelation 13:8 is one of the verses that proves God’s eternal purpose of election, since the names of those who are to be saved were written in the metaphorical book before all time. And furthermore, your own account makes no sense. How is saying that God always knew the ones who are to be saved “not do justice” to God’s eternity? If God is eternal then his knowledge is eternal, and therefore God has always known the ones to be saved. What’s the problem with that? There is not problem with that, but even if there were a problem, it is still irrelevant. You are confused both because your comments have nothing to do with my question, and because your comments are incorrect when scrutinized apart from their irrelevancy.

7. What is superior about believing God sends people to Hell contrary to his will and for no ultimate reason, compared to believing that God has a purpose for this condemnation?

A. “Nothing. But no Arminian believes that God sends people to Hell “for no ultimate reason.” They are damned because they refused to believe.”

Alrighty then. This merely extends the question. Why did God eternally purpose to create individuals whom he knows will not believe, and then send them to Hell for their unbelief, for no ultimate purpose? The question still stands. You have to answer why God eternally purposed to create individuals who would never place faith in Christ.

Why should the groom be wed to the one who rejected his proposal?”

Hence the question, why did God create individuals whom he knows will reject him and spend eternity in Hell? What purpose did God have in this?

But certainly the groom did desire to be wed, for he sincerely did make the proposal.”

Why did God create individuals whom he eternally knows will reject his proposal? Was he not in control? Did God not mean to? What is the purpose for creating these people who reject him? Nothing that you say addresses this question.

My question for you is “How can the reprobate be blamed for rejecting the proposal (gospel) if the proposal (gospel) was insincere?””

You would have to define insincere. The Gospel sincerely says that for all who place their faith in Christ, they will be saved.

The reprobate are accountable because God holds them accountable. Even after you define what you mean by “insincere,” you would have to prove that God cannot condemn people unless he gives them a sincere offer of salvation, which of course, you can never prove. Here’s a syllogism to make it easier for you:

Premise 1: God cannot punish people for their sins unless he sincerely offers them salvation, or unless they have the real possibility of believing the Gospel.

Premise 2: According to Calvinism, there is no real possibility for the reprobate to be saved.

Conclusion: There is a problem with Calvinist theology.

I reject premise one. You can never prove premise one. I need not answer the question until you establish premise one. You fabricated the problem according to your own biases. God can hold individuals accountable because he calls us to account. God’s actions themselves is his own justification of his actions.

8. Does God intend to create people born with physical disabilities and diseases, or is this also an accident contrary to his will?

A. “Defects should never be attributed to God,”

Blindness and deafness are defects which God creates: “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” (Exodus 4:11), so you are dead wrong.

“but as a result of creation being affected by sin.”

God was the one to curse creation in the first place, so either way, the curse leads back to God causing it to happen. For example, God is the one who created pain in child birth (Genesis 3:16).

“The word accident cannot be attributed to the uniqueness of an individual. We say that God knits together in the womb, but it would be a mistake to ignore the processes that occur naturally”

I mean accident in the sense that God does not actual mean to create people the way that he creates them, not that the existence of the person in general is an accident. This is contradictory. Is the formation of a child produced through natural processes apart from God? Or is it God who knits the child in the womb as scripture says? It’s obviously the latter, so these natural processes that you refer to do not exist. If by natural processes you mean what occurs under God’s control, then there is no distinction between these two, and it is still God who purposes and creates individuals who are handicapped.

To say that God is the one who forms the child in the womb is equivalent to saying that it is not done through natural processes, but according to God’s direct control. To affirm both is contradictory, and thus, insane.

just as it would be a mistake to observe the natural processes and ignore the God who designed the natural processes”

Prove that natural processes exist, or that there is a causal principle external to God. Natural processes, so-called, do not exist theologically, since God is the only existing causal agent.

We observe that God is the designer of these processes”

Therefore God has so designed the world after the Fall to produce the deaf and blind, correct?

and recognize him for the life that we all have, while we recognize that mankind is responsible for the imperfections.”

I fear that here you are equivocating the imperfection of the body to moral imperfection. If this is the case, then once again, your comment is irrelevant.

All you have done is contradict yourself by talking about natural processes. Also, you have rejected Exodus 4:11 by stating that physical defects ought not to be attributed to God’s purpose and causation. Scripture says it is God who does it. Same thing with John 9. The blind man was blind according to God’s purpose in order for God to show his glory in the healing of that man.

9. Why does God ever reveal his wrath against anybody (like in Exodus against the Egyptians) when he is trying to save them?

A. “Who says that God was trying to save the Egyptians?”

Everyone who claims that God wants all to be saved. So all Arminians claim that God wanted and tried to save the Egyptians.

For that matter why stop at the Egyptians? Just look at the flood. Lots of wrath there”

Exactly. Proves my point.

10. Why do Arminians complain that Calvinists trivialize prayer, reasoning that if everything is already determined it is useless to pray, when Arminians believe in God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, and therefore God has eternally known what you are going to pray also? Since in both cases God has eternally known your prayer and what is going to happen, do not Arminians face the same problem they incorrectly perceive Calvinists have?

A. “In my understanding of Calvinism, God would not answer a prayer that was never prayed.”

Um, duh?

Wouldn’t God sovereignly make a person pray and then respond?”

Yes? So… Want to answer my question? It seems you do not answer my question because you haven’t defined yourself as an Arminian.

So I think we can just chalk this one up to people unwilling to try to understand Calvinism.”

Well then this question does not apply to you.

11. What did God mean when he said “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4)? Doesn’t this mean that God has purposely killed people to glorify himself, and he accomplishes this by controlling their wills? Also, how does the death of Pharaoh glorify God when Arminians believe God tried and failed to save him?

A. “If this is the official view of the Arminian, then the Arminian is wrong.”

Alrighty then.

“However just because God acted this way with Pharaoh, does not necessitate that God should act this way with unbelievers.”

What…? Why do you constantly say things that are irrelevant? God treats everybody the way that he wants to treat them. He makes his elect into believers and he rejects the reprobate.

If you are referring to Romans, you should observe that Pharaoh is being used as an example of how God is not required to universally distribute grace to all men.”

Yeah I know. That’s Calvinism.

12. Since Arminians believe God does not foreordain anyone to condemnation, who is the god that ordains the disobedience and condemnation of unbelievers like in 1 Peter 2:8?

A. “Please try to understand me on this. It is not as though the individuals of the elect are faceless or unknown.”

Arminianism says this, so this does not apply to you.

It is the method of how God chooses these individuals that are drawn into question. The Calvinist looks beyond the Cross of Christ to “God’s secret decree,” while I look to the Cross of Christ and Christ alone.”

I do not prefer this terminology of secret decree since it is the source of endless ridicule and nonsense from the people who would oppose it. God’s choice is based upon his will, his purpose of election. How is God’s choice of his elect based upon the cross, when the cross is the method of saving the individuals he chose to save in the first place? God first chose his sheep, and then Jesus accomplished salvation for his sheep.

We can imagine God looking at the results of Christ’s sacrifice and seeing the fruits of that sacrifice, those individuals who would believe.”

So God passively sees the fruit of the cross? So it was possible that it may not have accomplished anything? God does not passively look upon things. God knows things through his own eternal determination of them. God does not take counsel with things external to him, but rather he works everything according to the counsel of his own will. The fruits of the cross is according to God’s eternal purpose. He is the one who accomplished the fruits of the atonement in the first place.

Thus God’s choice is wholly summed up in his decision to send his only begotten son. Without this choice no man would have the option to believe and be saved.”

This does not answer the question of whether or not God chose some for salvation and not others. It’s as if I mention apples and then in all of your responses you talk about oranges. The issue is not whether or not the cross was necessary, but my question has to do with election and the “chosen ones.” If God never chose anyone in particular in Arminianism, then these verses which mention chosen ones are meaningless. If you do not want to talk about that, then do not waste your time by responding.

I would like to ask the Calvinist, “Does God make a choice for each and every individual?””

You seriously need to take a critical thinking class at your local community college. I was talking about God’s chosen ones which refer to God’s choice in election, and now you are talking about people’s individual choices for some reason. I can’t respond to you when you have no capacity for logical thought.

(That’s a lot of choices) “From what set of individuals does God choose?””

The entire set…

(You must realize that Christianity has changed the world. Put simply no man exists that would have existed if history had not been altered by Christianity.)”

I cannot respond to you when your comments have nothing to do with my question, nor with one another.

God could not have chosen individuals out of a Christ-less reality, because they no longer exist.”

Good thing no one is talking about a Christ-less reality then. I cannot respond to you when your comments have nothing to do with my question, nor with one another.

14. What do Arminians think being crucified with Christ means? Since predestination is conditional, and since true believers can truly fall away from their salvation and be restored back again, doesn’t this mean that people can be crucified with Christ, uncrucified, crucified, and uncrucified again? Or can those in Hell truthfully say that even they have been crucified with Christ? If those in Hell are crucified with Christ, then how is being crucified with Christ significant to believers in any way?

A. “Salvation is conditional upon surrendering one’s life”

Nope. If salvation is contingent on something we do then it is no longer grace. Surrendering our life to Jesus is the outworking of God’s work of salvation within an individual.

“It is like joining the military and obtaining free tuition. Free tuition for college is “part of the deal” for those who enlist in the military. Not everyone in the military gets an honorable discharge, which is required to utilize the G.I. Bill to pay for school. But honestly it is not hard to get an honorable discharge. For those who do not receive an honorable discharge, it is because they lived without regard to themselves being government property. So it can be said that those who obtained an honorable discharge actually meant the oath that they swore when they enlisted.”

I can’t respond to you when you have no capacity for logical thought or the ability to create valid or relevant analogies.

A Christian must die to himself, pick up their cross and follow Christ. This is not difficult for the true Christian. Because the true Christian has the Holy Spirit to guide and give him strength. Thus salvation is assured once the condition of crucifying one’s self has been met. (How can someone return to their old way of life, if their old way of life is dead?)”

Look, if you weren’t going to respond to the question then why did you write so much? My question concerns those who believe that falling away from salvation is possible.

15. Sin God predestines evil (Acts 4:28), what do Arminians have to say for themselves? If they deny that the Bible says that God predestines sin and evil, what does Acts 4:28 mean? What about Exodus 4:21? John 12:39-40? Etc.

A. “God predestined that Christ would be sacrificed. Christ being sacrificed is not a sin. Pontius Pilate, Herod, Jews, and Gentiles came together against Christ (to crucify him) to do what God had predestined should happen, (that is that Christ would be sacrificed.)”

Christ being sacrificed is not a sin, but people murdering Jesus through the testimony of false trials and false witnesses is sin. God predestined the means and events leading to Christ’s crucifixion, which includes murder. Therefore, God predestines sin.

“It seems that this is the best argument that the Calvinist has to offer that God has sovereignly decreed every sin.”

This isn’t an argument, it is a claim, and it is meaningless to call it “best.”

“That he had “sovereignly decreed” the necessary sin of killing Jesus.”

That’s what Acts 4:28 claims. You have yet to address the verse.

While if we look at Acts 2:23, we will see that Christ was handed over by the predetermined plan AND foreknowledge.”

Which likewise proves that God predestines sin. God foreknows according to what he predetermines.

Throughout the gospels we see occasions where men wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus had hardly been born when Herod ordered the slaughter of Bethlehem’s infants. It is ludicrous to think that God had to somehow sway these godless men away from their natural inclinations, as though they loved Jesus or something.”

I can’t respond to you when you have no capacity for logical thought. God doesn’t passively allow things to happen. These men are the way that they are because God made them that way. John 11 shows that God gave Caiaphas the inclination and idea to murder Jesus. These are not relevant responses to the texts that I have provided.

Just because God had always known that Christ would die as he would, does not necessitate that God had to be the cause of anyone’s action beyond the actions of Christ himself.”

That’s irrelevant since Acts 4:28 and Exodus 4:21 and John 12:39-40 says that God predestines and controls sin. You have responded to none of these. If you are going to take the time to respond to these, try to make sense and actually address all parts of the question please?

16. Who is the god that ordains people to condemnation (Jude 4) contrary to God’s will?

A. “Jude rightfully views such evil men as individuals who will be damned on Judgment Day. This does not mean that these men were created by God to be damned, but rather that believers should not treat such men as fellow believers or as unbelievers who might one day believe.”

So these men were not “designated for this condemnation” as the verse states?

(I will concede that the grammar does portray a Calvinistic view, but we must look beyond grammar to what the Spirit wishes to tell us.)”

The Spirit is the one who inspired the grammar and the meaning, so to draw a dichotomy between these two is insane. I could also say this about any verse that I want. You’re just giving an excuse to reject the verse. How do we know when to reject scriptural grammar? How do we know when the Spirit wishes to contradict the grammar that he inspired? How stupid.

It is not as though Jude is warning against men who are causing trouble and wishes to throw in a radical way of thinking. Jude is issuing an insult, not a revelation.”

What is the “radical way of thinking” that you are talking about and why is it radical? The letter of Jude is not revelation? The claims that it makes are not revelatory? It seems as if you are advocating that we reject Jude. Verse 4 is a proposition, not an insult. He is describing the nature of apostates, and the reason for their apostasy is because it has been ordained by God.

“‘They are so evil that they have long been designated for judgement,” not “they have long been designated for judgement and this is the reason why they are so evil.'”

First of all, can you provide us with a reason to believe this? You cannot because Romans 9:11-13, for example, contradicts it. Secondly, the reason for their evil is not the issue. The issue is that they are designated for condemnation, which proves reprobation, which disproves Arminianism. That was the point.

17. Since all of humanity is under condemnation due to Adam’s transgression, does this not prove that people do not need free will in order to be accountable to God and condemned? Since people do not free will in order to be held accountable and condemned, given that we are under condemnation do to Adam’s transgression, why do Arminians so often object that the Calvinist system of predestination is unjust because people are condemned for actions they could not avoid? Do not Arminians face the same perceived free will-accountability problem that Calvinists face?

A. “Free will isn’t simply “this or that,” it is also separate. God chooses this, but man chooses that. It is because man can choose something other than good that we can recognize it as free, and it is because man does choose in opposition to God that he is condemned.”

People choose what is morally wrong because they cannot do otherwise. Those in the flesh cannot do good (Romans 8:8), and furthermore it is God who controls our actions. Saying that we choose evil has nothing to do with freedom. We choose things in opposition to God’s law because we cannot do anything else until God causes us to do good.

My objection isn’t that God is not just, but that justice has been rendered void of all meaning.”

In what context? What are you talking about?

Within Calvinistic judgement God is only rewarding those whom He had done good things with and punishing those whom He had done bad things with.”

Your point?

Why should I esteem my plow, but annihilate my sword? They both serve my purpose well.”

Explain to me what the analogy means; I do not possess superpowers to automatically understand undefined metaphors.

If you see God as using man to somehow purge evil desires within himself”

Within whose self? What are you talking about? What does any of this have to do with my question?

then judgement might make sense. So I see Calvinism as either nonsensical or straight up heresy.”

Which part is heretical? How does this answer my question? What are you talking about?

18. Why do Arminians often assume that words in the Bible like “choice,” “willing,” and “voluntary” imply free will?

A. “This is because free will is a self-evident mechanism of man.”

I could just as easily say determinism is self-evident. Saying something is self-evident is an excuse to cover up the fact that you have no real reason for believing it, certainly no Biblical reason. The Bible contradicts it, so clearly it is not self-evident. However, you have demonstrated that people assume free will, not that these words that I listed above (choice, willing, etc.) imply it. You take a confused presupposition that is supposedly self-evident, which it clearly is not, and then superimpose it on the Bible. Furthermore, calling it a “mechanism” is oxymoronic, since mechanisms are deterministic.

When a child steals a toy you do not rebuke God”

God controlling the actions of a child who steals a toy is completely disconnected from the idea of rebuking God. God was not the one stealing, the child was the one stealing, and God was the one controlling the child. God is just for all his actions, and to argue that we wouldn’t rebuke God, therefore free will exists, assumes that God is somehow morally culpable for the actions committed by the people whom he controls, which has yet to be demonstrated by you. Once again, this sentence is a non sequitur, and your answers have nothing to do with my question.

but the child, because everyone operates under the knowledge that the choice originated from the child’s will.”

I do not operate under that assumption so speak for yourself. You are a megalomaniac to think that you speak for all of humanity. You have no authority to take it upon yourself to know what assumptions everyone operates under. God was the cause of Caiaphas’ idea to murder Jesus in John 11, and God was the cause of Cyrus’ decree to let the people of Israel go back to Jerusalem. God is the cause of all our actions and ideas. If this was not the case, then there would be a causal principle external to God which rivals God, which would result in deism. If you say that all external causal principles are under God’s control, then God causes and controls these external causes, which would make them no longer external causes. We do not have power in ourselves; it’s not in man who walks to direct his steps, and likewise it is not in man who thinks to direct our actions; the way of man is not in himself. Furthermore, appealing to popular belief is fallacious when establishing biblical doctrines.

19. Since Arminians belief God has exhaustive foreknowledge, in light of the fact that God already knows every single individual who will be saved or condemned, don’t Arminians think open theism is the better option? Since Arminians wish to wholly reject anything resembling reprobation, believing that it makes God a moral monster, why cling to a theology that teaches God knowingly creates people who will not be saved? What meaningful difference is there between Calvinism and Arminianism on this point? Again, don’t Arminians face the exact same issues and challenges that they pose to Calvinists?

A. “I do not create the god I find the better option. As for the reprobate… God has done everything short of dy… (no wait… he did die) Well… I don’t know what excuse the reprobate are going to have on judgement day.”

I do not know what you are getting at.

But as for the Calvinist’s view of the reprobate, they will recognize that they deserve damnation only if they see their disobedience as originating from themselves.”

This is completely incorrect. God causes them to be disobedient by merit of the fact that it is God who creates and fits the vessels of wrath to prepare them for destruction. So no, Calvinists do not recognize this, only the confused ones.

(We will all be ok, so long as none of you Calvinist lean over and clue them in to “the secret decree.”)”

You have yet to define this; you’re not quoting anything that I have said when you use these quotation marks; who is the “we” here? Clue who in? How is cluing the people in about secret decrees relevant to my question or anything that you have said previously? Honestly, all I see is a mess of disconnected sentences from you.

20. Was Job wrong when he confessed “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2)? If he was not wrong, then why does God purposely thwart his own purposes? If Job was wrong in this confession, what justification do you have to support that?

A. “No. God purposely thwarts his own purposes?”

Arminians believe God tries and fails to do things, so if you believe that God succeeds in fulfilling all of his purposes (except it appears that you do not believe God is totally successful in accomplishing his purposes, since you believe in free will and that we can freely choose things that are contrary to his intentions for history), then this does not apply to you.

More Questions for Arminians

This is a continuation of my previous blog post called, “21 Questions for Arminians.” Here are more questions challenging Arminian theology.

1. Why do Arminians constantly object to the Calvinist conception of determinative sovereignty, saying that God would be a moral monster (as Roger Olson says) for planning and causing evil events, when Arminians also believe God has the ability to stop evil events and yet doesn’t stop them? Since both groups believe God permits evils and atrocities, aren’t Arminians objecting to their own god as well? Isn’t the only difference between Calvinism and Arminianism on this point is that the Arminian god has no purpose or greater plan for evil, while the God of Calvinism does have purpose for evil?
2. If events happen contrary to God’s will of decree, what higher power causes these events?
3. Since classical Arminianism believes in original sin and the corruption of human nature so that we can neither do nor will to do any good apart from God, how do we have free will?
4. Why did God only choose Israel and not the rest of the world to be his people? (There are obvious exceptions like Ruth and Rahab, but I mean generally speaking). Was God too incompetent to do so? Or did God only wish to make Israel his people? If God only desired to make only Israel his people before the New Covenant, then why do you believe that God tries and fails to save everyone?
5. If God knows the future by looking out to see what will happen irrespective of his will, doesn’t this mean that God’s knowledge is contingent upon something other than himself? And therefore not all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3)? How is it possible for their to be knowledge external to God?
6. What does the Lamb’s Book of Life metaphor mean in an Arminian context in light of Revelation 13:8?
7. What is superior about believing God sends people to Hell contrary to his will and for no ultimate reason, compared to believing that God has a purpose for this condemnation?
8. Does God intend to create people born with physical disabilities and diseases, or is this also an accident contrary to his will?
9. Why does God ever reveal his wrath against anybody (like in Exodus against the Egyptians) when he is trying to save them?
10. Why do Arminians complain that Calvinists trivialize prayer, reasoning that if everything is already determined it is useless to pray, when Arminians believe in God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, and therefore God has eternally known what you are going to pray also? Since in both cases God has eternally known your prayer and what is going to happen, do not Arminians face the same problem they incorrectly perceive Calvinists have?
11. What did God mean when he said  “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” (‭Exodus‬ ‭14‬:‭4‬)? Doesn’t this mean that God has purposely killed people to glorify himself, and he accomplishes this by controlling their wills? Also, how does the death of Pharaoh glorify God when Arminians believe God tried and failed to save him?
12. Since Arminians believe God does not foreordain anyone to condemnation, who is the god that ordains the disobedience and condemnation of unbelievers like in 1 Peter 2:8?
13. Isn’t the word “chosen” (in texts like 1 Peter 2:9 and Colossians 3:12) meaningless since God does not choose any specific individuals but only a corporate and faceless mass of those who freely choose to believe? If there are no particular “chosen ones,” couldn’t Paul call absolutely everyone a chosen one?
14. What do Arminians think being crucified with Christ means? Since predestination is conditional, and since true believers can truly fall away from their salvation and be restored back again, doesn’t this mean that people can be crucified with Christ, uncrucified, crucified, and uncrucified again? Or can those in Hell truthfully say that even they have been crucified with Christ? If those in Hell are crucified with Christ, then how is being crucified with Christ significant to believers in any way?
15. Sin God predestines evil (Acts 4:28), what do Arminians have to say for themselves? If they deny that the Bible says that God predestines sin and evil, what does Acts 4:28 mean? What about Exodus 4:21? John 12:39-40? Etc.
16. Who is the god that ordains people to condemnation (Jude 4) contrary to God’s will?
17. Since all of humanity is under condemnation due to Adam’s transgression, does this not prove that people do not need free will in order to be accountable to God and condemned? Since people do not free will in order to be held accountable and condemned, given that we are under condemnation do to Adam’s transgression, why do Arminians so often object that the Calvinist system of predestination is unjust because people are condemned for actions they could not avoid? Do not Arminians face the same perceived free will-accountability problem that Calvinists face?
18. Why do Arminians often assume that words in the Bible like “choice,” “willing,” and “voluntary” imply free will?
19. Since Arminians belief God has exhaustive foreknowledge, in light of the fact that God already knows every single individual who will be saved or condemned, don’t Arminians think open theism is the better option? Since Arminians wish to wholly reject anything resembling reprobation, believing that it makes God a moral monster, why cling to a theology that teaches God knowingly creates people who will not be saved? What meaningful difference is there between Calvinism and Arminianism on this point? Again, don’t Arminians face the exact same issues and challenges that they pose to Calvinists?
20. Was Job wrong when he confessed “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2)? If he was not wrong, then why does God purposely thwart his own purposes? If Job was wrong in this confession, what justification do you have to support that?

21 Questions for Arminians

Response to this blog post.

1. Why did God eternally purpose to create a world where his purposes are thwarted by his creatures? In other words, why did God eternally plan his failure?

2. Why does God create people who he knows will go to Hell, yet has no purpose for it? Does not God know all those who will be lost? Why then does God create people against his will? Or is it not against his will? And if it is not against his will to create people who go to Hell, does this not mean that God purposes to create people who will be lost contrary to his purposes? (…since Arminians believe God desires the salvation of every single person.) How is this rational?

3. Why did God place the tree in the garden knowing Adam would fall, yet having no purpose for his fall? Again, does God eternally desire events to happen that are contrary to his will? How is this rational or Biblical?

4. If the Arminian premise of free will is true, how does God know anything about the future? If God has exhaustive foreknowledge, then in what sense is free will actually free? Would not this freedom be an arbitrary freedom?

5. If God predestines by foreknowing, does this not mean that history is not in Gods control? Since God does not control history or time (since God looks to see what will happen in the future irrespective of his desire for the future), what dictates history? Does this other principle that dictates history control God to some degree? Since this other causal principle exists which dictates time and all events, regardless of God’s will of decree, constraining God to create a world that is ultimately outside of his will and control, is not this other thing more powerful than God? Does that not make this other principle God, and make God not God?

6. Can you justify your claims from scripture and from the definition of the Greek word “προορίζω,” that predestination is merely conditional, and that events are not truly determined by God in any actual sense?

7. Can you justify from scripture that God loves every single person in the history of mankind, even though scripture explicitly teach that God hates certain individuals? Does God eternally love those who will experience his wrath for eternity? What type of love is this?

8. Is not God actually indifferent to people’s salvation, given that if he really wanted to save every person and show them his love, he would force them to be saved and obey him? Or does God not possess the ability to controls people’s wills?

9. Since the Church is pictured as the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5, does that not mean that Christ would be an adulterer, since he gave up his life to save everyone equally, even for those who end up not being a part of the bride of Christ? Or is everyone a part of the bride of Christ since Christ gave himself for all? Furthermore, how can God be jealous for his bride if he is trying to make everyone his bride?

10. Why does God harden the hearts and blind the eyes of people he wants to save? Does God do these things against his will? Or is his will to do what is against his will? Again, how is this rational or Biblical?

11. What is the purpose of the law? Can people fulfill the law by their free will actions? If people can fulfill the law, then why is Christ’s atonement necessary? Is not Christ responsible for only a portion of our salvation, and then we fulfill the rest of our salvific requirements through our perseverance, which is based upon free will choices? How does this not destroy the grace of God in salvation?

12. What Biblical justification do you have for rejecting that God does, can, and is justified to deceive people, predestine sin, and control people’s actions?

13. What Biblical justification do you have for prevenient grace? Do you not admit that God influences people’s will through prevenient grace? Since God influences people’s wills within Arminianism, how can you still believe in free will? In fact, in what meaningful sense is the will free from God? Is the will sometimes free and not at other times? What Biblical passages would justify this, and why would Arminians object to Calvinism upon the basis of free will, when Arminian theology itself rejects free will through the doctrine of prevenient grace?

14. Since classical Arminianism teaches that our wills by themselves are wicked and only choose evil, how do our wicked wills cooperate with God in our salvation? If God brings us to a neutral position to accept or reject the Gospel, and our decision to “accept Christ” is free, does this not mean that we can please God without faith by choosing to have faith, and that all of our righteous decisions come from our wills themselves and not from God? Is not this cooperation, when thought out consistently, mere Pelagianism?

15. How do you harmonize the doctrine of scriptural inspiration with your assumption of free will?

16. Can you Biblically justify the Arminian assumption that people must be free from God in order to by accountable to God?

17. Why does Jesus praise the Father for hiding Gospel truths from people he desires to save (Matthew 11:25-26, Luke 8:10)?

18. Since the new birth is according to the will of God and not according to our own wills (John 1:13), then why do Arminians think that we can choose to spiritually birth ourselves? And why do many Arminians confuse this issue by appealing to verse 12 which is irrelevant to the cause of regeneration?

19. Why does God send people strong delusions so that they will be condemned?

20. How do all things work together for the good of God’s people if they can fall away from salvation and go to Hell?

21. How are the elect who are predestined merely an impersonal, faceless, mass of people when Romans 8:29 says that all those whom God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to Christ, and not those whom he did not have a special relationship with yet he conformed to the image of Christ?

Libertarian Free Will, Church History, and Arminian Disingenuousness

It is the common tactic of the free will theist to say that all of church history is on their side while none of church history is on the Calvinist side, as Brendan does in section 2 of his post. This is clearly not true. This claim is, of course, an oversimplification at best, and a blatant lie at its worst.

Which is More Radical? 

Brendan claims that, since all of church history is on his side, Calvinistic determinism is the radical position, while libertarian free will is not radical by comparison. Thus he opposes my assertion in part three of my previous blog that libertarian free will is clearly a more radical doctrine than divine determinism.

Let it be made clear that the truth or nature of a proposition is not dictated by the number of people that believe it. Hypothetically, a majority of the church could have an erroneous opinion, and it would still be valid to call this incorrect opinion “radical,” even if it is held by the majority of the professing church. The standard by which we measure a doctrine’s validity is according to Scripture; Brendan would most certainly affirm that, though I would contend that most of his conclusions are dictated by an overriding rationalism that he imposes upon the Bible and are not derived from the Bible itself.

Brendan Claims Virtually Everyone Believed in “Libertarian” Free Will

I will address the groups of people that Brendan mentions and examine to see whether or not his analysis is correct. I will list some of the groups which he says believe in libertarian free will:

1. All ancient church fathers prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD
2. St. Augustine
3. All Medieval theologians
4. All Papists and Eastern Orthodox
5. Virtually all groups independent of the Roman Church-State
6. Many post-Reformation movements like Methodism, Pentecostalism, and Lutheranism

The claim is this: “in short, just about every orthodox and/or historic form of Christianity both Catholic/Orthodox and Protestant” accepted libertarian free will and rejected the Calvinist understanding of predestination. I had more respect for Brendan before reading claims like these. They are patently false and over-generalizations of the truth. I can hardly believe how he wrote this section with a good conscience. It’s possible he is merely ignorant of the relevant historical information that refutes his position, however if that were the case, then he should not have made these claims. On the other hand, if Brendan is not ignorant of the relevant historical information (the more likely option), I do not see how Brendan can avoid the charge of dishonesty. This is what I said before; the idea that libertarian free will was universally accepted throughout all church history is an oversimplification at best and a blatant lie at worst.

There are many notable councils, synods, and theologians throughout church history that contradict Brendan’s audacious claims. It will be easy to refute Brendan’s claims that Calvinistic determinism and predestination were wholly absent from history, given that Brendan uses words like “all.” If it is true that “all” early Church Fathers and Medieval theologians etc. accepted libertarian free will, all I must do is cite a single example where this is not the case and Brendan’s thesis will be refuted. He has made the task quite easy. However, first I must define “libertarian free will” and hopefully clarify some points of confusion.

Let us begin.

Possible Points of Confusion

1. Brendan did not know what I meant by “libertarian” free will, and therefore was responding in confusion.

What I mean by libertarian free will in my post was the Pelagian conception of free will which I mention under the section ahead titled “What is ‘Libertarian’ Free Will?” Anything that I said in my post regarding libertarian free will was from that perspective, and therefore it ought only be responded to as such. Brendan possesses a different definition of “libertarian” which I would contend is not actually libertarian.

2. Brendan’s post says even Presbyterians believe in free will.

This is deeply misleading. Not only did Brendan say this in the context of “libertarian” free will, but he implies that even Presbyterians believe it. Of course, nothing can be further from the truth. As explained in the following section titled “What Augustine Meant By ‘Free Will,'” I show that compatibilist free will is a determinist system, and is therefore a repudiation of libertarian free will to begin with. Why would Brendan emphasize that Presbyterians who hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith believe in free will, when the type of free will that they and the confession expound is defined by determinism?

3. Brendan mentions “hard determinism” for some reason.

Brendan may have assumed in his post that whenever I had said “determinism” I was advocating for “hard” determinism. This is really an unfounded assumption. When I spoke of determinism in my original response to him, I did not clarify whether it was compatibilist, hard, or otherwise, so to assume I was talking about hard determinism is unfounded. To tell you the truth, I am undecided upon which one to accept. I am unsure whether the compatibilist position is necessary. Yes we make decisions that we want to make, but since they are still determined and predestined by God, to call those actions “free” just seems useless to me…for now. Brendan’s response to my post seems to oppose the apparent hard determinism in my post (which I was not necessarily advocating) which a definition of “libertarian” free will that is not actually libertarian.

What is “Libertarian” Free Will?

My understanding of “libertarian” free will necessitates a Pelagian position. The Pelagian scheme is the most consistent as well as the most extreme form of free will theology known to Christianity, given that it affirms the following:

1. Adam’s Fall in the Garden had no moral affect upon his offspring, thus children are not born corrupt sinners
2. Man has the upmost ability, at all times, to freely and perfectly obey God
3. God never interferes with man’s will

The 19th century church historian Philip Schaff affirms my first and second points regarding human freedom in the Pelagian scheme:

“[Pelagians affirmed] the ability of the law, as well as and apart from the gospel, to bring men into eternal life…[Pelagians] opposed this to the necessity of inner grace; [Pelagians affirmed] the integrity of free will to choose the good, and opposed this to the necessity of divine aid…[Pelagians affirmed] the perfection of the lives of the saints, and opposed this to the doctrine of universal sinfulness” (60).

When one speaks of “libertarian” free will, it seems so obvious to me that they are referring to the Pelagian concept of free will. This view must not only reject divine determinism, but also original sin and human moral inability. Theopedia agrees with me on this point:

“Libertarian free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God.”

Here we see that if we are going to discuss “libertarian” free will in any meaningful sense, we must view it as not only a rejection of divine determinism, but also a rejection of the corruption of human nature due to Adam’s Fall. However, according to this definition, Brendan would not believe in “libertarian” free will any more than I do.

“Libertarian” Free Will and Arminianism

It is odd that Brendan, being a historic Arminian, would affirm libertarian free will, given that Arminianism denies free will of this kind. Throughout our exchanges there is a difficulty regarding the ambiguity of the definitions of the words we use, and in this case, the definition of the word “libertarian.”

Historic Arminianism denies the first two points mentioned previously, and thus it appears that Arminianism denies “libertarian” free will. On The Society of Evangelical Arminians website, they affirm both (1) original sin and (2) man’s moral inability to do good apart from God’s grace:

“In and of themselves and apart from the grace of God human beings can neither think, will, nor do anything good, including believe.”

This quotation explaining the Arminian view of the moral corruption of human nature is in agreement with Calvinism at this point. I will cite two Calvinist confessions to show that Calvinism agrees with this Arminian statement quoted previously. The Belgic Confession states in Article 14:

“…humans are nothing but the slaves of sin and cannot do a thing unless given to them by heaven.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith states in Chapter 9:

“Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation…”

Clearly man can do nothing pleasing to God in and of himself.

Furthermore, other sentiments like these can be found throughout church history. In refutation and condemnation of all Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, the Council of Carthage (418 AD) condemns those that believe they can perfectly obey God through exercising their free will in Canon 5. In fact, in a preface to this council, those attending the council implored Pope Zosimus at the time to pronounce Pelagius and Coelestius heretics just as Pope Innocent had done before him. Those opposing Pelagius and his followers demanded that they be considered heretics until they recognized the following:

“we are aided by the grace of God through Christ, not only to know, but to do, what is right, and that in each single act; so that without grace we are unable to have, think, speak, or do anything belonging to piety” (88).

Arminians and Calvinists are agreed on this point.

For even more discussion upon this topic in church history, the Council of Orange can be cited. This council states in Canon 7:
“If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God…”

So if there is substantial historical evidence to show that the Christian Church affirmed the bondage of the will to sin, and if Arminians and Calvinists are agreed that the human will is corrupted and only chooses evil apart from God’s grace, how do we understand Brendan’s charge that people throughout church history unanimously believed in “libertarian” free will? Obviously only Pelagian heretics believe in “libertarian” free will as it has been defined, so why would Brendan assert a belief that he repudiates?

What Brendan Means By “Libertarian”

In order to not contradict his own Arminianism, Brendan’s definition of “libertarian” excludes the denial of moral corruption, given that Arminianism affirms the bondage of the human will to sin. Therefore the only description that can be applied to Brendan’s definition of libertarian free will is a denial of divine determinism. So when Brendan makes the claim that the professing church throughout history has affirmed libertarian free will, he means to say that church history has unanimously denied divine determinism. Put another way, Brendan claims that everyone within the categories he has listed denies that God controls people’s actions and wills, and that the will is truly free from God’s control.

In the upcoming sections I will examine Brendan’s claims regarding the six categories of people mentioned. I will provide the reader with relevant sources to combat the idea that the professing church throughout history was unanimous in its consent to libertarian free will.

Ante Nicean Church Fathers (33-325 AD)
A. Evidence of the Fathers Supporting Determinism:

It is strange that Brendan would make such sweeping claims regarding the absence of the Calvinist understanding of divine determinism in the early church when people such as John Gill have responded to this Arminian objection. In John Gill’s “The Cause of God and Truth,” “Part 4 Of Predestination,” Gill contends that the doctrine of God’s predestination (and thus divine determinism), election, and reprobation can be found throughout the early church fathers. It is odd that Brendan does not even acknowledge a work such as this. Brendan’s failure to acknowledge significant past refutations of his libertarian free will thesis is a further testament to the unreliability of his claims.

Gill quotes Ignatius (35-107 AD) on page 749 as saying: “Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, To the blessed in the greatness of God the Father and fullness; to the predestinated before ages, that is, before the world began; always to be a glory, abiding, immoveable, united and chosen in the true passion by the will of God the Father, and Jesus Christ our God; to the church, worthily blessed, which is in Ephesus of Asia, much joy in Christ Jesus, and in the unblemished grace.”

Here we see that Ignatius speaks of predestination and election. An Arminian may claim that this evidence is inconclusive because Ignatius may be referring to a conditional, synergistic type of predestination and election, but this objection would be unfounded. Notice that Ignatius describes the state of the predestined and chosen as “immoveable.” In the Arminian conception of free will (or at least in Brendan’s conception), individuals have the possibility of falling away from their salvation and finally being lost because they could freely choose to do so. Ignatius contradicts Brendan’s Arminian free will beliefs by saying that those whom God has chosen cannot be moved from their salvation (“immoveable”), therefore God’s control over people’s wills is clearly asserted. The introduction to the letter is consistent with Calvinism and inconsistent with free will Arminianism. The saints mentioned are obviously assured of salvation due to God’s predestination, and the Lord so controls their wills so that they desire repentance and holiness, never being able to fall away from the faith.

The examples found in John Gill’s “The Cause of God and Truth” could be multiplied, but I will let the reader examine Gill’s work for themselves which was given in the link above.

B. Calvin’s Commentary Regarding these Early Fathers:

While still on the topic of the Ante Nicean Church Fathers, I think it is relevant to quote Calvin in his institutes concerning this topic. There is a difficulty that comes along with quoting these early church fathers due to a variety of factors. One of these difficulties is the fact that the early church was more concerned about issues such as the doctrine of God, Christology, refuting Jewish and Greek religious/philosophical thought, etc. The issues of free will and predestination were secondary compared to the gnostic heresy and these other issues. It makes sense that there would not be as much clarity on determinism and the human will in early Christianity. The second issue that must be kept in mind is that there is a difficulty in knowing what a church father meant when using the phrase “free will.” Did this theologian affirm the Pelagian heresy that we can fulfill the law apart from grace? Did he mean that God does not control our wills? Did he merely mean choice? The presence of the phrase “free will” in the fathers does not definitively deny divine determinism and is far from proving that they all believed in “libertarian” free will without exception.

John Calvin in his institutes has these things to say about these early church leaders:

“Further, even though the Greeks above the rest – and Chrysostom especially among them [the early church fathers] – extol the ability of the human will, yet all the ancients…so differ, waver, or speak confusedly on this subject, that almost nothing can be derived from their writings” (McNeill 259).

“Few [early church fathers] have defined what free will is, although it repeatedly occurs in the writings of all” (McNeill 261).

It is obvious when the fathers are examined that not every passing reference of “free will” is a denial of God’s control over human actions. For instance, what Origen meant by free will was “ability to choose the good.” Calvin concurs with this source, saying “Origen seems to have put forward a definition…that it is a faculty of the reason to distinguish between good and evil, a faculty of the will to choose one or the other” (McNeill 261). It is an abundantly evident fact that many of these early Christians were either unclear regarding their definitions, and even in some circumstances, as was the case with Origen, their “free will” doctrine did not even necessarily exclude the possibility of divine determinism.

I have presented enough introductory evidence and challenges to address Brendan’s claim that the Ante Nicean Fathers universally rejected determinism (Calvinistic predestination). I will now move on to Brendan’s claim that Augustine believed in “libertarian” free will.

Augustine (354-430 AD)

For evidence regarding Augustine’s view on the will’s bondage to sin, heaps of texts could be quoted. Augustine was the early fifth century archetype of those who opposed human moral ability. Augustine was a fierce advocate of the necessity of God’s grace for people to perform good works pleasing to God, as Calvin once again notes quoting Augustine: “‘without the Spirit man’s will is not free, since it has been laid under by shackling and conquering desires” (McNeill 265).

However, I must remind the reader that Augustine’s proclamations about the bondage of the will due to sin is irrelevant. Brendan agrees with Augustine and with Calvinists that apart from God’s grace we can only sin. Once again, the issue is whether or not Augustine believed that God controls and influences the wills of people. If Augustine believed that God controls people’s wills, and if this can be demonstrated, then Brendan’s thesis that Augustine believed in “libertarian” free will will be refuted. Consider the following quotations from Augustine’s “A Treatise on the Predestination of the Saints”:

(1) “This grace, therefore, which is hiddenly bestowed in human hearts by the Divine gift, is rejected by no hard heart, because it is given for the sake of first taking away the hardness of the heart. When, therefore, the Father is heard within, and teaches, so that a man comes to the Son, He takes away the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh, as in the declaration of the prophet He has promised. Because He thus makes them children and vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory.”

Hardly any commentary needs to be given. Augustine clearly believed that the human will is controlled by God. However, due to possible confusion, I will try to specify exactly how Augustine concedes to this. Augustine references Ezekiel 36:26 which is God’s promise to his people that he will take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. The heart is pictured throughout scripture as being the sum total of one’s personality, intellect, and nature. The heart is pictured as stone to illustrate the hardness and stubbornness of people due to sin. By removing the heart of stone and giving a heart of flesh, God in Ezekiel 36 explains that he controls the wills of his people, changing their minds and actions so that they will no longer disobey, but obey him (Ezekiel 36:27). Augustine affirmed that God controls people’s wills. Clearly the Word of God knows nothing of “libertarian” free will, and neither did Augustine.

Furthermore, if one is still somehow not satisfied with my commentary on this quotation from Augustine, let me illuminate another detail. This grace that Augustine speaks of “is rejected by no hard heart…” The reason for this is because, in Augustine’s understanding, the Lord’s grace “is given for the sake of first taking away the hardness of the heart.” Therefore, if God’s grace fails to take away or influence people’s hard hearts, no one would ever be converted. Augustine believed in the irresistibility of God’s grace, agreeing with the words of Christ in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me…” Because Augustine believed God’s converting grace is irresistible, this obviously tells us that God controls people’s wills. This disproves the section of Brendan’s thesis which claims that Augustine denied that God controls our wills. Augustine certainly did not believe in “libertarian” free will in any sense.

(2) “He promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God’s worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has commanded; it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfillment of God’s promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men; and thus what was promised by God to Abraham would be given to Abraham by men themselves. Abraham, however, did not believe thus, but ‘he believed, giving glory to God, that what He promised He is able also to do.’ He does not say, ‘to foretell’— he does not say, ‘to foreknow;’ for He can foretell and foreknow the doings of strangers also; but he says, ‘He is able also to do;’ and thus he is speaking not of the doings of others, but of His own.”

Need I say more? Let me try to clarify so that there is no confusion. Augustine believed that God “makes [us] to do what He has commanded…” God does this by controlling the wills of those whom he bestows his grace upon. God controls people’s wills! Where is the “libertarian” free will of Augustine’s thought? It is nowhere to be found.

Once again, look at Augustine’s understanding of predestination. Augustine did not hold to Arminianism’s conditional predestination, but a determinist predestination. He says, “He promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination.” This proves that Augustine did not believe God predestines by foreknowing the free actions of men in the future as Arminians like Brendan would have it, but that the outcome of events happen according to God’s predestination. Therefore, God controls all events and all things, including the wills of people.

Berkhof comments:”At first, Augustine himself was inclined to this view [conditional predestination/predestination according to God’s foreknowledge], but deeper reflection on the sovereign character of the good pleasure of God led him to see that predestination was in no way dependent on God’s foreknowledge of human actions, but was rather the basis of the divine foreknowledge” (Berkhof 119).

This is profound, because this demonstrates that Augustine possessed a Calvinistic perspective (indeed an Augustinian perspective!) of predestination. Every event in history occurs as a result of God’s sovereign, determinative decree. Obviously God controls the actions of people because he predestines them. God does not conditionally predestine events based upon his foreknowledge of free will creatures, but the actions of his creatures are as a result of his predestination. Indeed, God accomplishes all events in history as Augustine contends; God works all things according to his own will (Ephesians 1:11); whatever God does cannot be changed (Ecclesiastes 3:14). Augustine emphatically did not believe in “libertarian” free will. So why the confusion?

What Augustine Meant By “Free Will”

Let me quote Calvin again for the sake of convenience. Regarding Augustine: “When he asserts that man’s freedom is nothing but emancipation or manumission from righteousness he seems aptly to mock its empty name” (McNeill 226). In other words, there sometimes is a sense when man is free: when man is “free” from righteousness and a slave to sin! Obviously this is not free will at all. However, Calvin’s section about what Augustine meant by “free will” is not relevant to this discussion given that I have established that, according to Brendan, “libertarian” free will means freedom from God’s control. It therefore has nothing to do with man’s freedom or bondage to sin.

Allow me to give a suggestion. According to Augustine’s “A Treatise on the Predestination of the Saints,” Augustine clearly believes that God controls people’s wills, and thus people do not have free will in the libertarian sense. The only sense which Augustine believed in free will must be in the compatibilist sense. Let’s examine the Westminster Confession at this point in Chapter 3:”God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

Notice that the Westminster simultaneously affirms that God predestines/determines whatsoever comes to pass and human freedom. The type of free will that the confession defines is compatibilism. Theopedia has this to say about compatibilism:

“Compatibilism, in contrast to Libertarian free will, teaches that people are free, but defines freedom differently. Compatibilism claims that every person chooses according to his or her greatest desire. In other words, people will always choose what they want…”

Regardless of people’s opinion of the validity of the compatibilist view of free will, compatibilist free will is not libertarian free will. Compatibilism is a deterministic system. Therefore, every time Augustine affirmed “free will” in the context of God’s control over people, Augustine was not affirming libertarian free will but compatibilist free will, which is a theology of divine determinism! Augustine therefore did not believe in libertarian free will, and Brendan is refuted on this point. In reality, Augustine affirmed the Calvinist view of predestination; he affirmed determinism and that our wills are controlled by God. To assert that Augustine believed in libertarian free will is as absurd as asserting Martin Luther believed in libertarian free will! As much as I enjoy speaking to Brendan, to suggest that Augustine was an advocate of libertarian free will either displays a deplorable ignorance of history or a dishonest character.

Medieval Fathers (5th-15th Centuries AD)The beginning and end of the Medieval period is ambiguous, so for my purposes I will include a whole one thousand years beginning from the time of the fifth century up until the fifteenth century. Brendan claims that throughout this entire time period there was no one who affirmed the Calvinist view of divine determinism (that God controls people’s wills), nor anyone who denied libertarian free will. Allow me to refute this absurd claim.

A. Augustine (354-430 AD)

If I am strict about my timeline for the Medieval Period (a.k.a. the Middle Ages), then I can use Augustine as evidence. In the last section I demonstrated that Augustine rejected libertarian free will in favor of determinism. Therefore, since Augustine lived in the time of the fifth century, I have demonstrated ipso facto that not all theologians of the Middle Ages accepted libertarian free will.

B. Fulgentius of Ruspe (467-533 AD) and Isidore of Seville (560-636 AD)

An online source of the Encyclopedia Brittanica states that Fulgentius of Ruspe was called the “abbreviated Augustine” (or a “pocket Augustine” according to this source), by his contemporaries. By implication, Fulgentius held to the key doctrines of Augustine, which I have demonstrated involve determinism, the denial of libertarian free will, and the affirmation of what is now commonly regarded as the Calvinistic understanding of predestination, election, and reprobation.

Philip Schaff, the 19th century church historian and scholar, states this in his notable 8 volume church history regarding both Fulgentius and Isidore: “The Latin church retained a traditional reverence for Augustin, as her greatest divine, but never committed herself to his scheme of predestination. It always found individual advocates, as Fulgentius of Ruspe, and Isodore of Seville, who taught a two-fold predestination, one of the elect unto life eternal, and one of the reprobate unto death eternal” (Schaff 524).

Can it be said that these men simultaneously believed in libertarian free will while also believing in irresistible grace and election? Can these men be said to simultaneously hold to Augustinian predestination/determinism and libertarian free will? If yes, then “libertarian free will” is a meaningless phrase. The fact of the matter is that these men agreed with Augustine. God controls and predestines all things, including the will of his creatures.

C. The Council of Orange (529 AD)

The Council of Orange in Canon 4 and 9 respectively state:

(1) “If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, ‘The will is prepared by the Lord’ (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, ‘For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13).”

Are we expected to believe that the same people who wrote this document in the sixth century, who believed that God controls and prepares prepares people’s wills, also believed in libertarian free will? They believed that God does not control people’s wills while they also affirm that he does? Of course not. The futility of Brendan’s position is so evident. Two things are obvious: (1) church history does not unanimously affirm libertarian free will, (2) and scripture likewise explicitly denies it.

(2) “Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.”

God cannot be at work within us if he does not control our wills. Is it Brendan’s position that God is at work within us, yet he does not influence our libertarian free will? How can Brendan maintain his thesis when people in the Middle Ages have affirmed that God controls people’s wills? Brendan is either extremely confused or extremely misinformed. If Brendan thinks he can still maintain his libertarian theology, I am beginning to think that “libertarian free will” is a meaningless phrase. If someone can possess “libertarian free will” while God controls or influences their will, then “libertarian free will” is not truly libertarian but something else altogether.

Philip Schauff comments on this council, calling it “Semi-Augustinian” (Schaff 524). The council affirmed the Augustinian views of sin and grace (indistinguishable in my estimation from both Calvinism and Arminianism as I explained previously under the title “‘Libertarian’ Free Will and Arminianism”), but not “[Augustine’s] view of predestination, which was left open” (Schaff 524). Although the council only addressed certain issues, its omission regarding predestination/determinism does not take away from the fact that the council denied libertarian free will from the plain quotation of scripture. In its conclusion, it also states this:

(3) “And we know and also believe that even after the coming of our Lord this grace is not to be found in the free will of all who desire to be baptized, but is bestowed by the kindness of Christ, as has already been frequently stated and as the Apostle Paul declares, ‘For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake’ (Phil. 1:29). And again, ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6).”

It is abundantly clear that the writers regarded faith as a divine gift, and that it was a result of God’s work within themselves, a work that effectually causes faith in each recipient, and a work that influences and controls the wills of people. Libertarian free will is repudiated.

To beat this section to death even more, here is a quotation from Gordon Clark in his book “What is the Christian Life?” regarding both Canon 3 and 4 of the Council of Orange: “This is an excellent statement of the Calvinistic position and shows that the Biblical doctrine was still professed by a good portion of the visible church. God does not wait for a willingness on the part of the sinner before purging him of his sin. The will is not free, for God works in us ‘both to will’ as well as ‘to do,’ and his working is of his own good pleasure” (Clark 31). So much for Brendan’s thesis that all of the Middle Ages affirmed libertarian free will.

D. Gottschalk of Orbais (9th Century AD)

I am becoming a little wearied listing all these people who denied libertarian free will in the Middle Ages. I have already sufficiently refuted Brendan regarding the Middle Ages, but I do not merely wish to refute him on this issue, but to also put him to shame. His claim is not only careless and ignorant but blatantly stupid. It is stupid and dishonest to say that everyone in the Middle Ages believed in libertarian free will, especially when Brendan does not even define the phrase for us. I have tried to sufficiently define “libertarian free will” in this post so that Brendan cannot complain that I am misrepresenting or misunderstanding him. With that said, let me mention yet another individual in the Middle Ages who rejected the heinous doctrine of libertarian free will.

Quoting again from Schaff, Gottschalk’s views are explained in the context of his appearance before the German king at the time:

“[Gottschalk] boldly professed his belief in two-fold predestination, to life and to death, God having from eternity predestinated his elect by free grace to eternal life, and quite similarly all reprobates, by a just judgement for their evil deserts, to eternal death…he seemed to put the two foreordinations, i.e. election and reprobation, on the same footing; but he qualified it by a reference to the guilt and future judgement of the reprobate. He also maintained against Rabanus that the Son of God became man and died only for the elect. He measured the extent of the purpose by the extent of the effect. God is absolutely unchangeable, and his will must be fulfilled. What does not happen, cannot have been intended by him” (Schaff 528).

Is a predestination of this type compatible with libertarian free will? Of course not. No further commentary is needed.

E. Contemporary Councils and Individuals in Agreement with Gottschalk (9th Century AD)

David S. Hogg in Chapter 3 of the volume “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her” states:

“Although Gottschalk was the main protagonist in this dispute, it is important to recognize that he was not alone in publishing and preaching his convictions. His allies in the matter included such intellectuals and notables as Ratramnus of Corbie, Florus of Lyons, Prudentius, Bishop of Troyes, who was a member of the court of Emperor Louis the Pious, and Servatus Lupus, abbot of Ferrieres. Together, these and lesser-known protagonists of strict Augustinian predestination [note how Augustine is mentioned as the archetype of those who deny libertarian free will in place of predestination; this makes Brendan’s claim that Augustine believed in libertarian free will all the more bewildering] argued that Christ died for the elect. Granted, none of these men used the terms now commonly employed, such as limited or definite atonement, but the idea that Christ’s blood was shed for those chosen and predestined by God from before the foundation of the world is clearly present” (Gibson 76-77).

Clearly Gottschalk was not alone. There were also at least two councils that I know of that affirmed this type of predestination against libertarian free will. These councils are the Council of Valence and the Council of Langres which Schaff notes in his volume already cited. A brief description can also be found here.

F. Peter Lombard (1100-1160 AD)

Lombard in his most famous work, “Sentences,” enunciates a doctrine of predestination resembling the Calvinist understanding; by implication he repudiates libertarian free will.

In Volume 5 of his series, Schaff explains the portion of Lombard’s theology relevant to this post:

“God’s predestination of the elect is the cause of the good in them and is not based upon any foreseen goodness they may have. Their number cannot be increased or diminished” (Schaff 634).

Regardless of Lombard’s nuanced perspective of divine foreknowledge, he affirms the Calvinistic understanding of election, and therefore affirms the predestination of the saints unto eternal life. God changes the wills of his elect, converting them, and influencing them in such a way as to cause them to persevere in faith until glory; just as Philippians 1:6 says, “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Libertarian free will is denied.

Commenting on the significance of Lombard’s “Sentences” in the context of definite atonement, Hogg states:

“What is important to understand in all this, particularly in the contemporary evangelical community, is that definite atonement was not a minority view in the medieval church. Peter’s Sentences was not just another of a long string of systematic theologies being churned out during the development of cathedral schools in the eleventh century; rather, this was the work that was adopted as the best and most effective. For centuries, Peter’s Sentences were the required reading of all theology students. Thus, Peter not only synthesized and summaries the popular positions of theology in the centuries leading up to his lifetime, but he became an astoundingly effective purveyor of those views for generations to follow” (Gibson 89).

Brendan’s thesis that the Calvinist understanding of predestination and the rejection of libertarian free will was absent from church history is not only wrong, but asinine.

Concluding Thoughts to this Section

I have not scratched the surface. Many other notable people to mention are John WycliffeJohn Huss, and Jerome of Prag. These men lived in the 14th and 15th centuries leading up to the Protestant Reformation. They believed in predestination over and against libertarian free will.

As I end this section, I would like to let the readers know that this is a broad overview of history, and certainly does not exhaust every example. The idea that virtually all of Christian history leading up to Martin Luther agreed upon the truth of libertarian free will is a bankrupt position. This Pelagian/Romanist/Arminian assertion may be convenient in the context of a brief conversation between individuals that have no clue about church history, but I expected more from Brendan.

Papists and the Orthodox

I know next to nothing about the Eastern Orthodox tradition, but according to the speaker of this audio, their church once considered recognizing the Canons of Dort as good doctrine. In those canons, the Reformed, Calvinistic doctrines of predestination, election, and reprobation are expounded. The mere possibility of the Orthodox tradition accepting these views (which include the denial of libertarian free will) shows that they are not absolutely unanimous in their history of affirming libertarian free will.

As for the papists, Brendan was the one who had mentioned the predestination controversy between the Dominicans and the Jesuits in the first place. Rightfully, the article that discusses this controversy states, “the Reformers and Jansenists banish entirely all free will.” At any rate, “libertarian” free will is not universally accepted in either of these unchristian traditions.

Pre-Reformation Groups Outside of Rome

I have already written way too much, so I will suffice it to point out that the Hussites followed John Huss and Wycliffe who believed in the Calvinistic understanding of predestination. Libertarian free will is obviously denied in that context.

Other “Reformed” Protestant Movements

It’s obvious that the founding of the Protestant Reformation was due to the rediscovering of justification by faith alone and God’s complete sovereignty over all things. The subsequent denominations that formed that reflected this the best were the Baptists and Presbyterians to my knowledge. I do not have to give the same evidence in this case because Brendan is not asserting that no one denied libertarian free will after the Reformation. If Brendan were to assert such a thesis, up would be down, black would be white, and hot would be cold. but he did not assert that. There are certainly some groups that have decided to deny biblical revelation, the most notable of which are the Methodists who are essentially Romanists without a pope. However, the reality of these groups does not discredit my assertion that libertarian free will is radical.

The Disingenuous Nature of Arminianism

With my interactions with Brendan, I feel as if I am always arguing against a moving target. When I think I properly understand his position, all of a sudden it seems to shift and all I am left with is Brendan’s disapproval. I attempt to mount to the top of the hill of properly understanding Arminianism, but it appears every few steps the ground is eroding under me and I make no progress. Why is this the case? I have a theory. It is not necessarily the fact that Brendan and I display verbal confusion, but the answer lies in the inconsistent nature of Arminianism itself. Let me give a few examples.

1. Free Will

It seems like most historical Arminians affirm free will. But what on earth does that mean? Arminians simultaneously accept that they cannot do good apart from God’s grace, yet somehow their will is free. The will is free from what to do what? would be my question. Furthermore, does not the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace reject libertarian free will? In prevenient grace, God so frees a person’s will when they hear the Gospel in order for them to make a free decision to accept or reject it. Does not prevenient grace therefore demonstrate that God influences and changes our wills? Furthermore, if we as humans cannot do anything morally righteous in God’s sight, would that not mean that every good work that we perform is a direct result of God controlling our wills? But, one sees the problem, if God is controlling our wills, how can we call this free will at all? We cannot, yet people do.

2. God’s Resistibility

If God’s saving and sustaining grace is resistible as Arminianism holds would it not follow that no one would be saved? The act of accepting God’s salvation, as the Arminian system posits, is something that is considered morally righteous. If accepting salvation is morally pleasing in God’s sight, that means that it must have been God’s grace that caused them to make the decision. However, within the scheme of prevenient grace, Arminians believe God brings people to a neutral state to freely accept or reject the Gospel. However, by admitting that we can do no good apart from God’s grace, it follows that people will always reject Christ and the Gospel, given that any decision that is not supplemented by God’s grace (which is merely enabling power, not actual saving grace) will inevitably be wicked. If God does not so constrain or overpower a human will to cause it to perform morally righteous acts, then by necessity the individual will always “freely” (even though their will is not free but enslaved to sin) choose evil and reject Christ. However, if the Arminian objects and says that the very act of a person choosing salvation is brought about by God’s grace, he is in no better position since God gives grace to all who hear yet they are not all saved. What is the real deciding factor of salvation and righteousness? It has to be people; next section.

3. God’s Grace

Arminians inconsistently proclaim that they are saved by grace when their system excludes grace. Grace is not mere enabling power, but it is the antithesis of works with regards to salvation. If God gives enabling power to every single person who hears the Gospel, yet not all come because his grace is resistible, this means that God’s purpose and grace are not the deciding factor of salvation. Somehow, even though they cannot freely choose salvation apart from God’s work in them (which does not influence their free will?), they freely choose to be saved anyway, which makes themselves and their decision the basis for the beginning of their salvation, Arminians still claim to be saved by grace? It does not matter how it is sliced; there must be some goodness within the Arminian convert (even though there is no good in them which can enable them to do anything pleasing to God…) that can enable the person to cause themselves to have faith and be saved. Is what an Arminian means by “grace” merely enabling power? Because this soteriology is NOT grace. This is a denial of the sufficiency of the grace of God to save sinners. If the sole reason you are in Heaven and Joe Shmoe is in Hell is that you made the decision for Jesus and he did not, you have room to boast, you have room to claim that you were better. You were both given the exact same resources, yet out of your own capacity, somehow, you made the better decision. Yet, somehow throughout all of this, people’s free wills are not controlled in any capacity, the sinner still chooses the good, and salvation is still solely by grace alone? I cannot follow such unbiblical confusion.

Summary

The issue of free will in the context of Arminianism is a world of inconsistency and contradiction, along with every other doctrine Arminianism poisons. Why I do not believe in free will is because i know in and of myself I cannot choose good and the Bible teaches in hoards of passages that God controls people’s wills and thus they are not free. I have demonstrated that the denial of libertarian free will is rich throughout history, even when “libertarian” is defined in such a way that excludes moral ability and only deals with God’s control over people’s wills and decisions. Brendan is dead wrong regarding the state of church history. He offers either a confused or meaningless definition of “libertarian” free will which is not actually libertarian, and then he has the audacity to say that everyone throughout church history has denied the Calvinistic understanding of predestination and God’s sovereignty. Any person that says that AUGUSTINE of all people believed in libertarian free will either has no clue what they are talking about, or make “libertarian free will” a meaningless phrase.

In the next paragraph of his post, Brendan says: “Blake is being simplistic. His replies are simplistic. His doctrine is simplistic. His understanding is simplistic.” Any person that makes Brendan’s outrageous claims that all of church history accepted libertarian free will is the one who is being simplistic. Any person who claims Augustine (YES! AUGUSTINE!) believed in libertarian free will is insane, not properly defining their terms, or is seriously mislead.

I have written far too much. Hopefully this will add to the discussion.

1. Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. N.p.: Biblicaltraining.org, n.d. Print.
2. Clark, Gordon H. What Is The Christian Life? Unicoi: The Trinity Foundation, 2012. Print.
3. Gibson, David, ed. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. Print.
4. McNeill, John T., ed. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol. 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011. Print.
5. Schaff, Philip. Mediaeval Christianity A.D. 590-1073. 4th ed. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2011. Print. Vol. 4 of History of the Christian   Church. 8 vols.
6. Schaff, Philip. The Middle Ages 1049-1294. 4th ed. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2011. Print. Vol. 5 of History of the Christian Church. 8  vols.

God Having “Regret” and “Disappointment” Explained

This is a continuation of my refutation of Brendan’s 3 reasons to infer free will from the Bible. This is the third and last response to the three reasons he gave. My previous blog responding to these questions may be found here. What follows is a discussion and repudiation of Brendan’s statement that God experiencing “regret” in Genesis 6 is contradictory to determinism, thus supporting free will.

3. “and God’s real disappointment with the way things do work out (e.g. Gen. 6:5-8).”

What is appealed to next by Brendan in favor of free will is God’s disappointment found in such places as Genesis 6. It is unfortunate that Brendan’s position necessitates the denial of God’s omnipotence, and therefore results in the denial of the Biblical God. Strong words indeed, but this issue must be properly explained and, God willing, Brendan will repent of his theology that attributes to God all too human qualities.

The Bible Teaches God’s Purposes Are Not Thwarted

Genesis 6:6 -> “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

Let me quote a popular couple of verses and then deal with explaining Genesis 6:6 afterwards. Does Isaiah 46:10-11 sound like a God who can be disappointed? Whose purposes can be thwarted by the free decisions of creatures that he cannot control? The text reads:

declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying‘ My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

If God declares the end from the beginning then God obviously knows all events that will take place in history, past and future. If God was disappointed at the events that took place in Genesis 6 regarding man’s wickedness, then he must not have purposed man’s wickedness in Genesis 6, but he must have intended or purposed something else. However, Isaiah 46:10-11 contradicts this idea, telling us that God accomplishes all of his purposes. Since one cannot claim that God lacked information or knowledge concerning the event, we must conclude that God always knew that humans would grow extremely wicked in Genesis 6, therefore he always purposed that this would occur given that it did. The only remaining alternative option in light of Isaiah 46:10-11 would be that God eternally purposed that his purposes would not be fulfilled, which is obviously untenable and posits a contradiction in God.

Therefore, in order to understand what it means when Genesis 6:6 states that the Lord “regretted” creating man and the wickedness of people “grieved him to his heart,” we cannot understand this to mean that human free will thwarted his purposes, or that God was “disappointed,” which would demand the opposite of what Isaiah 46:10-11 explicitly teaches.

The Utilization of Anthropomorphism

If one is not satisfied with this initial explanation against Brendan’s idea that Genesis 6 implies free will and denies determinism, remain until the last one, for my last argument cannot be denied by any rational person. My second argument here is that Genesis 6:6 is an anthropomorphism. An anthropomorphism, or personification is applying human characteristics to that which is not human. I could say “The Bible looked lonely, for it had not been touched in years.” Applying the human experience of “lonely” to something which is not human, namely a Bible, anthropomorphizes the object which gives the meaning that the Bible had not been read by anyone in a long time and that it is in a state of isolation from other objects. The Bible often describes God in anthropomorphic language so that we may understand him better. Consider the following verses:

“…the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma…” (Genesis 8:21)

“…by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” (Deuteronomy 4:34)

Then the Lord awoke as from sleeplike a strong man shouting because of wine.” (Psalm 78:65)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Obviously when it describes the Lord with body parts such as an arm, having a mouth to breath air, having a nose to smell, and sleeping or being drunk like a man, these are pictures for us to better understand God’s actions in the midst of their specific contexts. With Brendan’s hermeneutic of Genesis 6:6 applied to all these other texts, God is not a transcendent spirit (John 4:24), but merely a drunk man who sleeps, breathes, smells, and has arms. God would also be made out to be a chicken since Psalm 91:4 describes God with a bird’s characteristics, “He will cover you with his pinionsand under his wings you will find refuge.”

Cross referencing Genesis 6:6 with 1 Samuel 15:29 proves without any doubt that at least part of the verse is an obvious anthropomorphism. The former states “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart,” while the latter states, “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” For both, the word translated as “regret” is the same Hebrews word “nacham” (Strong’s 5162) so that we know these verses directly correspond to one another. One says God regretted, the other says that he does not regret. Why the apparent discrepancy? Let’s explore.

It is necessary to note that in the same chapter in 1 Samuel 15:11 (and verse 35), the same Hebrew word is used, asserting like Genesis 6:6, that God has regret, for the verse is the Lord speaking, saying “I regret that I have made Saul king…” Are we really to believe that the text in 1 Samuel 15 contradicts itself within 20 verses? Or that Samuel, a prophet of God, was merely mistaken when he asserted that God has no actual regret? Of course not! This is necessary to understand: words like “regret” or “relent” are anthropomorphically applied to God in order to explain the outward change of events that would take place, NOT that God would be experiencing an internal change or emotions as we experience them, for God does not change (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, 1 John 1:5). This is the doctrine of God’s impassibility, which includes the denial of God experiencing emotions as humans do (with the exception of Christ in the days of his flesh). This is a historic understanding of God found in chapter II of the Westminster Confession of Faith where it asserts God has no “passions,” though I will not pursue explaining it at this point in time.

Leaving discussion of the doctrine of impassibility behind, allow me to further demonstrate how the Lord’s regret must not have been actual and internal, but must have been a description of the outward change of appearance to God’s purposes in the sight of people. Genesis 6:6 and 1 Samuel 11, 35 is an anthropomorphic explanation given for our understanding of God’s actions. God “regretted” making Saul king over Israel only in the sense that God rejected Saul from being king and instead chose another king who turned out to be David. Why would the Lord reject a man from the tribe of Benjamin from being king and instead choose a man from the tribe of Judah to be king? It is because God had always purposed to make David king instead of Saul. Jacob prophesied in Genesis 49:10 concerning Judah saying,

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

God did not experience actual, internal regret for deposing Saul, for God did so according to his purpose which he made known centuries earlier. God said the scepter (kingship) would be from Judah. The kingship of those in the line of Judah would then obviously lead to the birth of Jesus Christ who is the son of David, and likewise “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5). God always intended to reject Saul as king. God certainly experienced no internal change due to regret, but is described as experiencing regret so that we would understand why the Lord altered these external circumstances in 1 Samuel 15.

All of this can be applied to Genesis 6 and the flood as well. God certainly purposed the wickedness of those upon the earth in Genesis 6. However, in order to explain why God would flood the entire earth in judgment, scripture tells us that God anthropomorphically “regretted” (the same Hebrew word found in 1 Samuel 15:29) creating man, though in an outward sense. It is necessary that this “regret” is only in in accordance with God’s actions in order to explain the events that will take place soon thereafter in Genesis, namely the flood. The text cannot mean that God experienced actual internal regret which he cannot experience (1 Samuel 15:29, James 1:17, Malachi 3:6). According to this same principle, the grief it says the Lord felt is anthropomorphic, given that God is immutable and experiences no internal change. It is meant to show how grievous and awful sin is in his sight, and therefore since the wickedness and sin is so terrible, he will destroy most of humanity in the flood. God was not in panic mode, God was not enacting the divine “plan B” because human free will messed up his purposes, but God was bringing to pass that which he had eternally purposed, for none of his purposes can be thwarted (Isaiah 46:10-11, Job 42:2, Daniel 4:35).

In summary of this second point, to infer free will in Genesis 6 ignores the reality of the anthropomorphism found in scripture, it ignores the fact that God does not have regrets because he is not a creature (1 Samuel 15:19), it denies that the Lord’s purposes cannot be thwarted and thus it denies the biblical doctrine of God’s omnipotence, and to posit actual internal change in God denies God’s immutability which is taught in James 1:17 and elsewhere. In conclusion for this second point, to infer free will in Genesis 6 is to deny many relevant attributes of God that make him God, and reduce him to the level of an incompetent creature, while simultaneously granting people power over God by saying they may ruin God’s plans. Once again, Brendan’s position is guilty of attributing to God all too creaturely qualities. This is the bottom line of all consistent free-willism: it is the inversion of the Christian worldview; it makes too much of man and too little of God. Harsh words I know, but by the grace of God I implore all who believe God and his word to abandon the anti-biblical concept of human free will and autonomy, and to submit to the fact that scripture teaches God controls all things and cannot be deterred from accomplishing everything he wishes.

God Created Their Wickedness

As if the second section was not long enough, let me add a third and final reason for why Genesis 6 cannot imply free will. In Isaiah 45:7 we read “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (KJV). The word translated as “evil” in the King James is the Hebrew word “ra” (Strong’s 7451). It can be translated in a number of ways, like “evil,” “calamity,” “bad,” “misery,” and the list goes on. It is not important in this situation which English word to apply to it. Here’s the point, Genesis 6:5 uses the same word. The verse is “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.”

The same word (“ra”) used in Isaiah 45:7 is used in Genesis 6:5. The Lord tells us through Isaiah that he creates “ra,” therefore God created the “ra” (translated as “wickedness”) that was found in people in Genesis 6:5, which lead to God’s judgment upon them in the flood. Let me try to say that more clearly, scripture teaches us that God created the wickedness found in the individuals in Genesis 6. God created the wickedness found in those people, and judged the very wickedness that he created in them by the flood.

As we see when we cross reference Genesis 6:5 with Isaiah 45:7, we see that the Bible teaches that God controls the wills of all of the wicked in such as way in order that they may not come to the knowledge of the truth, in order to punish them for the “ra” that he created in them. This is in order to display his wrath and make his power known. Here is a small collection of verses which teach this:

“And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:17)

“For it was the Lord‘s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” (Joshua 11:20)

Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them.” (Jeremiah 13:13-14)

“And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Ezekiel 14:9)

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.'” (John 12:39-40)

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” (Romans 9:18)

” What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.'” (Romans 11:7-8)

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

In conclusion to this section, to infer free will from Genesis 6 ignores the fact that God has revealed to us in no uncertain terms in Isaiah 45:7 that he creates evil and wickedness (“ra”). Therefore, we know that any text in the Old Testament where “ra” is mentioned, we know that it was God who created it and purposed it for that occasion. Since “ra” is mentioned in Genesis 6:5 regarding the wickedness of the people of the earth, we know that God controlled “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart,” bending their thoughts and actions to do the evil that he purposed them to do, in order that they would be judged and he would be glorified. Therefore God did not experience internal change, nor did he experience actual “regret,” nor disappointment, but the events given in Genesis were the outworking of God’s eternal plan.

“Alternative Possibilities” Examined…Again

In my previous post, I began responding to Brendan’s three objections to determinism and his support of libertarian free will. Here is his indictment against Calvinism, and thus his challenge to me:

“Unless and until he can show that facts such as these are consistent with an eternal, causal, predeterministic, necessitarian, secret-but-apparently-we-know-what-it-is decree, I feel justified in inferring (Libertarian) Free Will on these grounds as most consistent with the text.”

The first fact that he claimed was inconsistent with Calvinistic determinism was reviewed in the last post. In this post I shall examine and strive to refute the principle of alternative possibilities which Brendan sets forth as his second reason to reject determinism and affirm libertarian free will. If I have reviewed the relevant information correctly, I believe I have provided a strong enough Biblical case to refute the idea of the possibilities of alternative events, since all events that take place in time occur by necessity according to God’s will.

2. “there’s being other ways things could have been in this world (e.g. Jer. 18:7-10; 1 Samuel 23:9-13)”

I have already responded to this question in a previous response. Although Brendan expressed his concerns to me that my response was inadequate, I cannot see how he gets around the fact that the Bible plainly teaches that God controls the repentance and disobedience of nations.

A Nation’s Disobedience is Controlled By God

When Jeremiah 18 speaks of hypothetical situations when nations may or may not repent, and that God withholds or administers judgment according to a nation’s disobedience or obedience, events are not therefore conditional, nor is the “principle of alternative possibilities” affirmed, but one must bear in mind that the cause of a nation’s obedience or disobedience is God. These nations did not freely choose to obey or disobey, but were controlled by God’s sovereign hand, so free will may not be inferred.

Here is a passage also found in Jeremiah that teaches that God controls individuals, and thus he controls the wills of nations:

Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them’” (Jeremiah 13:13-14).

We see that God delivered Judah over to judgment, and specifically says that he ruined the understanding of the citizens of Jerusalem so that they could not repent or obey. Obviously God controls the nations, deciding when they repent or not.

Hypotheticals Do Not Prove Alternative Possibilities

As far as 1 Samuel 23:9-13 is concerned, it appears that Brendan is confused regarding the difference between hypothetical situations and events that happen by necessity. If I prayed to the Lord and got a response as David did, asking “What will happen if I gouge my eyes out?” and the Lord responds “You will not be able to see,” this does not even remotely imply that God does not determines all events, nor that real alternatives in time can occur that are contrary to God’s purposes. The existence of hypotheticals is no justification for Brendan’s idea that events that occur in time are subject to the whim of people and not the purpose of God. We can ask any number of hypotheticals, but these hypotheticals say nothing of their actual possibility to occur in time irrespective of God’s will and eternal decree.

What God Does Cannot Be Changed

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)

Ecclesiastes teaches that God has purposed events from eternity and that nothing contrary can happen, “nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.” This text is fascinating because Brendan objected that I used (as an afterthought) 2 Kings 19:25 as a rhetorical flourish in favor of divine determinism, Have you not heard that I determined it long ago?

Here is the refutation of Brendan’s theory of the “principle of alternative possibilities,” which is the concept that events happen conditionally according to free will, or chance, but certainly not according to God’s predestination. The Hebrew word translated as “determined” in 2 Kings 19:25 is “asah” (Strong’s 6213). The word can mean “to fashion,” “do,” “accomplish,” “make,” and so on. The particular word one chooses is not necessary for this demonstration. Let it be clarified that 2 Kings 19:25 teaches that God “asah-ed” (so to speak) that the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, would take over many nations and mock Israel along with everything else mentioned in that chapter.

Here’s the downfall of the real possibility of alternative events: Ecclesiastes 3:14 uses the same Hebrew word “asah.” When Ecclesiastes 3:14 says that “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it,” the word translated as “does” is “asah,” so that the text reads “I perceived that whatever God asah’s [so to speak] endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.”

The conclusion is that whatever God “asah’s” cannot be changed. Therefore, Sennacherib could not have done anything different, for it was God who did it. The events described in 2 Kings 19 could not have taken place any different, for God predestined and predetermined them. Indeed, the New Testament says God “works all things” (Ephesians 1:11), and we know from Ecclesiastes 3:14 that nothing can be added or taken away from God’s work. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he asah’s all that he pleases.” God does as he wishes and nothing can be added or taken away from his work, for as Nebuchadnezzar confesses, “none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35). Ecclesiastes 3:14 proves that the “principle of alternative possibilities” is false, for whatever God does is not subject to different possibilities, nor is it conditional, but irresistibly occurs according to God’s will, immutably, and by necessity.

Definition of “Predestination” Denies Alternative Possibilities

Furthermore, in passing I would like to point out that the truth of the concept of predestination as taught in the New Testament denies that events have possible alternatives. Predestination is not conditional and neither is divine election. Certainly God uses secondary means to accomplish what he predestines, but “conditional predestination” as Arminianism asserts is an oxymoron. A brief examination of Strong’s Greek 4309 on the word proorizo (translated as predestined in English) reveals that predestination is to limit beforehand, to mark of boundaries. The Greek word horizo means “to set boundaries,” “mark off by boundaries,” and “determine horizons.” To prohorizo means to do all these things beforehand, which God does from eternity. The very nature of predestination means that events are fixed to happen.

Indeed a good example of this is in Acts 17:26, “having determined [horizo] allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” When God predestines (prohorizo), determines (horizo), or does (asah) an event in history, by their very definition, it mean that events happen by necessity according to God’s eternal purpose, and that God himself accomplishes what he has purposed.

Conclusion

The text says it all. What God does is unchangeable according to Ecclesiastes 3:14 and according to the definition of prohorizo and horizo. Also, God controls the actions of nations. To infer free will from Jeremiah 18 is to overlook these truths. I believe I have presented enough evidence to refute that libertarian free will may be inferred from such texts as Jeremiah 18 and 1 Samuel 23 when speaking of hypotheticals. Two out of three of Brendan’s objections have now been examined and refuted; there is but one more to go.

Choice Does Not Imply Free Will

In my last post on this topic I focused on a single issue of whether or not Jeremiah 18 teaches that events that take place are conditional. He claimed that 2 Kings 19 describes “an event that may have been avoided.” Having contended that all events that take place are controlled by God and are unavoidable, I will respond to more of Brendan’s responses to my original post.

Brendan’s third response, which is what this post is in response to, is mainly with regards to whether or not free will or determinism is radical. I will not provide the whole context, but respond to what I see as relevant and interesting. He says:

“Unless and until he can show that facts such as these are consistent with an eternal, causal, predeterministic, necessitarian, secret-but-apparently-we-know-what-it-is decree, I feel justified in inferring (Libertarian) Free Will on these grounds as most consistent with the text.”

Until I can show “facts such as these” can be reconciled with predeterminism and events happening by necessity, he will continue to infer his free will doctrine from the Bible. Since Brendan claims I did not properly deal with the issues he brought up in his second response, I will attempt to do so now. I will list and respond to the texts he appeals to that are supposedly inconsistent with predeterminism and demonstrate how they are not. There are three reasons that he lists for arguing that the Bible is inconsistent with determinism, and each of the three will be separated into their own blog posts. I shall respond to the first objection here.

(As an aside, I assert that “predeterminism” is synonymous with the Biblical doctrine of predestination, but since Arminians like Brendan strangely assert that predestination is conditional, I will use the word “predeterminism” in order to avoid complaint and confusion).

1. “Free Will seems most consist[ent] with: “God’s giving persons choices to make (e.g. Deu. 30)”

This is one of the most basic misunderstandings of all synergistic theologies. It does not logically follow that all or any Biblical texts that speaks of “choice” can be viewed as automatically teaching free choice. Immediately concluding that the Bible teaches libertarian free will whenever the concept of the will is mentioned is placing an unwarranted assumption upon the text. If the text merely says “choice,” “will,” or “decision,” nothing is said about the nature of that will. Neither my position nor his position is affirmed when only choices or the will is mentioned. I will cite and explain two other examples where free will cannot be implied from the text, and then I shall explain how Deuteronomy 30 does not imply free will either:

A. “…yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:40)

The Reason for the Choice is Not Freedom

One might infer free will from John 5:40 by merit of the fact that the people made a choice; they refused to come to Christ. However, they would be mistaken. Jesus clarifies in the next chapter concerning the nature of an individual’s actions. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:44, 65). The explanation given for why the Jews refused to place faith in Christ was because they could not. Their will was not free; it was not able to cause the people to place their faith in Christ. Their will was bound to sin; their will was predisposed to spurning Christ. No concept of libertarian free will can remain when one believes what is stated by our Lord in John 6.

John 12:39-40 Teaches God Controls People’s Wills

Furthermore, later on in John 12, we see that God influenced the wills of Jesus’ audience in such a way so that they would not believe. John, quoting from Isaiah 6, states

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,’He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them'” (John 12:39-40).

Once again, they chose not to place their faith in Christ, but they did so not because their will was free, but because God controlled their understanding and actions. Clearly their wills were not free from God’s control.

Summary

The Jews in John 5 chose to refuse to come to Christ, but John 5:40 does not tell us why. Jesus tells us why; it is because their will was not free to choose Christ. Jesus asserted that no one has the free will to choose to believe in John 6:44, but only those who are drawn by the Father (the elect) will believe, and all who are drawn by the Father will be raised on the last day, i.e. saved.

In addition to this, John applies Isaiah 6 to the Jews’ unbelief in John 12:39-40, saying the people could not believe because God influenced their will in such a way to prevent them from believing. Does Brendan also infer libertarian free will from the countless texts that teach that God controls people’s wills? All of this demonstrates that making choices in scripture does not imply libertarian free will.

B. “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ezekiel 18:31)

With reference to this verse in Ezekiel 18:31 (one can also mentioned 2 Corinthians 7:1), synergists like Brendan may assert that this text obviously implies that humans have free will, and thus we have the sufficient innate ability to create a new spirit and a new heart within ourselves. After all, Brendan asserts that “Free will seems most consist[ent] with God giving persons choices to make.” Since God gives a command in Ezekiel 18:31, he presents a choice to either obey or disobey, and therefore free will can be inferred.

This is clearly false. Ability does not limit human obligation to obey God. This will be further discussed in my commentary on Deuteronomy 30:19. God clearly commands us to fulfill moral impossibilities, so a command does not presuppose freedom.

Furthermore, Ezekiel 18:31 does not demonstrate that the creation of a new heart within a person is accomplished in accordance with the mere volition of man, because elsewhere God says in Ezekiel that he himself will do this act of creation and restoration:

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭11‬:‭19‬)

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭36‬:‭26‬)

God commands Israel to make themselves a new heart, yet God says that it is he that creates the new heart of repentance within them. God commanding his people to obey him obviously does not presuppose free will, because the same book shows that it is God who causes them to have a new spirit; it is God who causes them to obey (Ezekiel 36:27). Israel’s will was not free from God, and to assert free will in spite of this is to ignore Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26-27. It was not within the capacity of Israel to recreate themselves and change their own hearts, but it was God’s special prerogative, therefore free will (or free choices) cannot be inferred from God’s commands or from human choices in this text either. God influenced the will negatively in the first sub point in John 12:40, and here we see the Lord’s positive influence upon a person’s will when he causes individuals to obey in Ezekiel 36:27.

C. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Ability Does Not Limit Obligation

There are those who believe that we have the innate ability to fulfill all of God’s commands by merit of God commanding it. This assumption is spelled out in the phrase ability limits obligation. This means that one has the baseless presupposition that God cannot require people to fulfill a command that they have no ability to fulfill, therefore it stands to reason that God presumes our innate ability to obey all of his commands. The concept of ability limiting obligation has been upheld by people in the past such as (i) Pelagius, (ii)  Papists, and (iii) John Wesley:

(i). Pelagius said, “God has not willed to command anything impossible, for God is righteous; and will not condemn anyone for what they could not help…” (McGrath 420)

(ii). The current, authoritative position of the Roman Church-State is contained in the Council of Trent, “For God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou are able, and to pray for what thou are not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able…” Although the second half of the quotation which explains that there are things humans are not able to do seems to contradict the initial phrase, nonetheless, the Papist position explained by the council of Trent is that God does not command the impossible, and therefore they assume free will when God gives a command.

(iii). Gordon Clark in his book What is the Christian Life, while summarizing Wesley’s theology, states “Wesley thinks it would be deceit or fraud for God to command anything impossible for us to accomplish” (Clark 44).

Therefore, Pelagians, Papists, and Wesleyans (as well as many Arminians and other like-synergists) assume free will when God gives a command. They assume this because they also assume that God does not give moral commands outside of our ability to fulfill. What follows is that whenever God gives a command or a choice, those such as Brendan presume that this choice must be free, for God would not command what we are unable to fulfill. So in the case of Deuteronomy 30:19, the command from God to obey and make choices, in Brendan’s mind, must mean that God assumes our ability to make the correct choices and fulfill his commands.

Human Inability and the Purpose of the Law

God assumes no such ability in his creatures. This is the fundamental mistake of those who support the concept of free will, for it is abundantly clear that God commands, at times, what is impossible to fulfill, and that his commands do not and cannot assume the free will of humanity:

“Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke [the Mosaic Law] on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8)

Indeed, the purpose of God’s law is to further condemn those under it. All who are under the law are condemned by necessity since none have the ability to make free choices to fulfill it, since “through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20), and again “the law came in to increase the trespass” (Romans 5:20), and again “the power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56), and once more “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” (Galatians 3:10).

The Mosaic law, and therefore God’s exhortation to “choice life” in Deuteronomy 30:19, was never an assumption of Israel’s ability or free will to obey the law, rather the purpose of the law was to further condemn all those under it so that salvation would be sought and found only and exclusively in the promises of God which are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made” (Galatians 3:19). This “offspring” is interpreted to us in Galatians 3:16 to be Christ.  The law was added because of transgressions (or to increase the trespass as Romans 5:20 asserts), and was to continue until Christ came to fulfill and receive God’s promises, and likewise we believers (children of Abraham according to Galatians 3:7) inherit the promises through Jesus because we are “in Christ.”

“Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:21-24)

How could the Israelites “choose life” when a law was not given that could give life? Why did God exhort them to obey when they did not have the ability to obey and fulfill the law? This was to show the futility of attempting to become justified through our own merit or order that we would seek justification by faith, through belief in God’s promises, relying wholly upon his grace and sovereign good pleasure for our redemption, so that we may truly confess with Paul, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).

God Prevents Israel From Choosing Life

If none of this is satisfies the reader that that free will is irrelevant and cannot be inferred from Deuteronomy 30, allow me to weary the reader further. Deuteronomy 29:4 states “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” Israel clearly did not have a mind to obey God’s law, for God had not granted them understanding regarding his signs, wonders, nor concerning his purposes. Israel remained hard-hearted and obstinate against God, possessing for the most part an evil and unbelieving heart, unable to obey God’s law and his exhortation to “choose life.” Deuteronomy 29:4 teaches that God hardened Israel’s heart so that they would not obey him.

If there are any who would assert that Deuteronomy does not necessarily teach that it was God who gave them this inability to understand and that God merely passively withheld understanding from them, not interfering with their free will, one must comes to terms with the apostle Paul’s application of Deuteronomy 29:4 in his letter to the Romans. Romans 11:8 reads: God gave them a spirit of stuporeyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

Are we expected to infer free will from Deuteronomy 30:19 when the apostle says that God gave them a spirit of stupor so that they could not choose life? How does Brendan infer free will from God presenting choices to Israel in Deuteronomy 30 when the chapter before says that God hardened their wills against obeying his commands, thus influencing, controlling, dare I say, determining their choices?

Presenting choices to individuals in scripture like in Deuteronomy 30 does not presuppose free will. Inferring free will from choices presented in the Bible is utterly facile, for it simultaneously ignores human inability (or total depravity) and the fact that God controls people’s actions. Make no mistake, humans do not have libertarian free will. Our wills are not free from God. For the non elect, it is written, “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11), but for the elect it is written, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

God controls all the actions of all people. Whether one obeys or disobeys God’s commands, such as in Deuteronomy 30:19, is according to his will. God presenting choices to people, to obey and disobey, never implies libertarian free will.

Clark, Gordon H. What Is The Christian Life? Unicoi: The Trinity Foundation, 2012. Print.

McGrath, Alister E., ed. The Christian Theology Reader. 3rd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2007. Print.

Misuse of Jeremiah 18:1-10

Jeremiah 18:1-10

Brendan cites Jeremiah 18:1-10 to argue that 2 Kings 19:25 was “an event that may have been avoided.” The event was not necessary nor “unconditional” he argues. However, Jeremiah 18 explains no such thing. I will not quote all of the verses for the sake of space. In essence the text says that if a nation turns from wickedness, God will relent of the destruction that he planned to bring upon it. Also, if a nation turns from righteousness (like Israel), then God will punish that nation and turn from the good that he would brought upon it.

The concept of God relenting from the disaster he threatened to bring upon a sinful people is also found in Jonah 3. Jonah preached destruction unless Nineveh repent, and the citizens ended up repenting: “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). Brendan argues because of what Jeremiah 18 states, and its corresponding evidence found in places such as Jonah 3, that the future is not settled. Nineveh could have either freely chosen to repent and be blessed, or freely choose to sin and be destroyed.

However these texts do not teach that the future is open. Jonah 3 and Jeremiah 18 do not discuss why it is that any of these nations or individuals chose to repent. The truth is that a nation becomes wicked and evil, or repentant and righteous, according to God’s will. The future is quite fixed and unchangeable, because God eternally purposes all that comes to pass.

Examples

Consider the following texts:

1. According to Brendan’s reasoning, Pharaoh could have chosen not to pursue Israel to the Red Sea. In fact, all of the land of Egypt could have repented and not suffered God’s curses and displeasure. However, God says in Exodus 14:4,  “‘Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.’ And they did so.” Hypothetically, if Egypt repented then God would turn away from the disaster he intended to bring upon Pharaoh and his army. However, this hypothetical situation was never possible. God intended that Pharaoh disobey all of Moses’ pleas to let Israel go by hardening Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21). Likewise, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to cause Pharaoh to pursue Israel into the Red Sea so that God would be glorified in their deaths.

2. After giving the list of blessings and curses to Israel, Moses tells the nation, “Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4). The only way that Israel can incline their ears and understand God to obey his commands is if God chooses that they obey and if God gives them ears and understanding (Proverbs 20:12).

3. Consider Job’s sound words. These are not character qualities wrongly applied to God by Job’s friends, but by Job. “He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a trackless waste” (Job 12:23-24). God takes away the understanding from the leaders of the earth whom he chooses to (like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:32-33) and raises up nations and debases them. This is according to God’s eternal purpose, not according to what nations freely choose to do irrespective of God’s will.

4. Isaiah 10:5-16 is another classic example. God sent the king of Assyria against Israel. God says that this king is like an axe in the hands of a man that is chopping down a tree (the tree being Israel). To say that the king of Assyria could have resisted God’s purpose in bringing Assyria against Israel is utterly unfounded in this text. Yet, not only did God determine (yes, determine…) that the king and Assyria would do this, but God said he would then punish the Assyrian king and his army for their pride in attacking Israel. The Assyrian nation is in the sovereign hand of God. Since Assyria was a wicked nation, it seems that it is Brendan’s position that this nation could have repented and practiced righteousness, though we know this is not true because it was God himself who sent the wicked Assyrian army against Israel, God later punishing them for their actions.

The conduct and history of the nations on Earth are controlled by God. The future is not open to alternative possibilities.

Scripture is replete with passages that speak of God raising up nations to send against other nations, God’s power to cause a nation to repent, and God’s prerogative to withhold his grace so that a nation degenerates into sin and corruption in time for him to destroy it. These are only some examples.

Conclusion

Therefore, when it says God will relent of either the evil or of the good that he intended for any particular nation, we must keep in mind that the nation’s conduct is itself according to God’s sovereign (determinative) purpose. It is not as if the entire city of Nineveh arbitrarily chose to repent according to their free will, but it was according to the miraculous working of God. Jeremiah 18 does not enter into the discussion of why a nation becomes wicked or righteous. The reason they become one or the other is according to what God predestines concerning them. Therefore, to use Jeremiah 18:1-10 as evidence that the future is open, that alternative possibilities exist, that God’s purposes may be thwarted, or that events do not unconditionally occur according to God’s purpose, is to ignore the reason why nations repent or disobey in the first place: God’s effectual will of decree.

Divine Sovereignty and Determinism

This will be a response to Brendan’s response of my criticism of his post. I put all the links there, hopefully you can figure out the sequence of responses if you are concerned enough. I will respond to whatever I think is relevant.

Brendan takes issue with my quotation of 2 Kings 19:25

Have you not heard? Long ago I did it; from ancient times I planned it. Now I have brought it to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps.” (2 Kings 19:25 NASB)

This is exactly why I did not intend to base any of my criticism wholly upon scriptural quotations, because I knew this would merely end up being a “This text means this!” and “No, it doesn’t mean that!” type of interaction. I included this verse as a type of rhetorical flourish because the ESV translates the Hebrew word עשׁיתי as “determined,” so for those who cry “Facile argument!” at me, know that quoting this verse was an afterthought. I certainly did not “[infer] a whole, systematic, philosophical network into the word ‘determined.’”

However, the rest of the verse explains the meaning of עשׁיתי and is a fantastic example of God’s power. I assert that the whole verse and the surrounding context is proof of God’s absolute sovereignty over all things through determinism, God governing the actions of people. I did not derive an entire system of theology from a word in my post (though a system of theology can most definitely be derived from this word: προορίζω), I merely quoted part of 2 Kings 19:25.

“Maybe God raised him up so that he might freely march on Jerusalem”

How then would God have brought that to pass? Furthermore, how would God “raise up” an individual if that individual has free will? How could Sennacherib have been made king according to God’s purpose if all of these people are free moral agents? If God’s purposes can be thwarted and the “principle of alternative possibilities” is true, how does God fulfill any of his purposes given that (apparently) Brendan seems to argue that none of God’s purposes are unconditional or irresistible? This is the result of not only an imprecise theology, but an incorrect one.

God said concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, “Now I have brought it to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps” (2 Kings 19:25 NASB). God says he (God) brought it to pass that Sennacherib would do these things. If this Assyrian king freely trampled over nations, irrespective of God’s divine intervention as Brendan suggests, one cannot assert that God brought Sennacherib’s free actions to come to pass. Sennacherib’s actions would have originated only in himself, yet God says that he (that is God) accomplished them, not merely Sennacherib. Hence the free will perspective and the denial of God’s power over the wills of individuals is not a sound position that can be granted by this verse (nor the rest of scripture if I may add).

“we can just as easily interpret [this verse] non-deterministically”

If Brendan argues that perhaps God accomplished this event through passive foreknowledge, is there then a direct, causal link between foreknowledge and the event? But if divine foreknowledge somehow causes the events to occur, would this not be the same as determinism? It would, so this causal link between foreknowledge and events cannot exist in Arminianism. Furthermore, Brendan appears to believe that none of God’s purposes are absolutely irresistible or will unconditionally occur, so it is unlikely that Brendan simultaneously believes that God somehow accomplishes his purposes by means of foreknowledge. How then does God accomplish his will?

The only conclusion I can come to (within Brendan’s paradigm) is that God was lucky that something happened that he wanted to happen. This would sounds much similar to open theism than Arminianism. Perhaps Brendan will later clarify what exactly he means by “free will” or what he means exactly by events in the future are not certain nor “unconditional.” If these future events are not certain how does God have perfect foreknowledge at all? This results in the possible utilization of philosophy to solve this issue, particularly Molinism as I understand it. If Brendan’s Arminian position results in the incoherence of divine foreknowledge and free human agency, forcing those that submit to this view to attempt to solve this issue through philosophical means, this makes Brendan’s accusation that Calvinists “[insert] deterministic philosophy into the Bible” all the more ironic. The truth is that Arminians insert free will into the Bible, thus tainting their entire system of theology. In reality, Arminians like Brendan force themselves to use philosophy in the same way that Brendan accuses Calvinists of using philosophy.

Brendan’s claim, “we can just as easily interpret [the verse] non-deterministically” is quite inadequate. It has been asserted that a non determinist view of scripture is tenable, but it has not been demonstrated because it cannot be. If God’s words in 2 Kings 19:25 “Long ago I did it” (NASB) can be seen as something to do with God bowing down to the free will of his creatures, then what more can I say?

Next post I will discuss Brendan’s misuse of Jeremiah 18:1-10.

“Does Divine Sovereignty Require Determinism?” A Response

The discussion of this post I am responding to concerns whether or not God’s sovereignty is antithetical to libertarian free will. Brendan comes to the conclusion that these apparently contradictory concepts can be believed simultaneously. He comes to this conclusion by defining God’s sovereignty outside of the framework of Calvinistic determinism, and thus, at least to Calvinists, redefines the nature of God’s sovereignty. Therefore, Brendan’s conclusion to his title, “Does Divine Sovereignty Require Determinism?” is a resolute no. Brendan therefore, having cast off the doctrinal husks of divine determinism asserts both that God is “sovereign” and that humans possess libertarian free will. There are a number of errors in his presentation I wish to address. I will not engage in extensive proof-texting but primarily with the post.

1. Denial of Determinism ~ “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago?” ~ 2 Kings 19:25

It is unfortunate that free will theists often discuss these issues irrespective of Biblical revelation. Brendan’s blog post is no exception to this. Why should Calvinists deny determinism when no compelling evidence is offered demonstrating that Calvinist proof-texts do not teach what Calvinists say they teach? If “scripture is just undeterminative as to precisely just how to make sense of divine government over the world,” then Brendan ought to take the time to prove this from scripture. However, this claim that scripture is “undeterminative” and imprecise regarding these issues is almost more troubling than the denial of determinism.

2. Purposeful Confusion and Appeal to Mystery

As just mentioned, it appears that Brendan claims that scripture is simply not clear enough about divine determinism. Scripture is “undeterminative” about it. However, if scripture is not clear about it, then Brendan cannot properly deny determinism because scripture might actually teach it. Brendan cannot positively assert that determinism is not true, because apparently he cannot be sure about his opposing position either. Scriptural vagueness on this point only leaves us with uncertainty and the inability to affirm any position, including Brendan’s.

3. Divine Determinism as “Radical”

“Why then,  [since the Bible is unclear] so easily accept so radical a position as metaphysical pre-determinism to explain the biblical teaching about divine sovereignty?”

Again, if the texts Calvinists use do not teach our “radical” form of determinism, Brendan ought to make a scriptural argument explaining how those texts are unclear. All Brendan does is assume his position and then conclude with his position, which is not overly impressive.

I believe that libertarian free will is a “radical” position, but merely asserting that carries no weight.

It is rather odd that an individual who would most likely align himself with the Protestant Reformation would make this claim. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Knox, Augustus Toplady, and George Whitefield, some of whom were reformers, all affirmed Calvinistic predestination/determinism. In fact, all reformed confessions that I can think of including the Westminster and London Baptist Confession of Faith affirm that God predestines all things: “God decreed in Himself from all eternity…all things which shall ever come to pass.” Belief in divine determinism was not much disputed within Reformed Protestantism until the time of the Remonstrants, which is one reason why the Remonstrants (Arminians) ought not to carry the title of “Reformed.” Determinism was not “radical” in the context of the Protestant Reformation to the Reformers, nor to those that followed suit. On the contrary, to deny determinism was radical. Indeed, Brendan’s libertarian free will position is the one guilty of radicalism.

4. Principle of Alternative Possibilities

“Well, freedom (in the Libertarian sense) roughly means to be the first un-caused cause of one’s own activities (agent causation) and by implication to be free and able to choose from a range of several alternatives (principle of alternative possibilities, or PAP).”

Arminians cannot even believe this. In Roger Olson’s summary of Arminian doctrine, he states, “Left to themselves, without the liberating power of grace, sinners will not exercise a good will toward God.” This is the case because Arminians affirm that humanity is unable to please God and obey him until God enables them to obey through prevenient grace. Therefore, before one receives this prevenient grace from God, sinners have no “alternative possibilities” other than sin and corruption.

Also, just to mention briefly, the Bible lists tons of evidences and situations when God hardens a person’s heart or compels someone to make specific decisions. Are we expected to believe that individuals who were compelled by God to make certain decisions were “able to choose from a range of several alternatives” contrary to God’s purpose? Was Caiaphas able to choose not to prophesy (John 11:51)?  Unfortunately, Arminians may respond that he could have.

The concept of PAP is also contradictory to the historic Arminian doctrine of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. If God knows everything that will happen then humans are not free “to choose from a range of several alternatives,” but by necessity choose what God foreknows we would choose. There is no alternative possibility other than what God foreknows will happen. Brendan had mentioned to me previously that this is a difficulty in Arminian theology. There are individuals who have tried to overcome this problem of divine foreknowledge and libertarian free will. Among those who have ventured to do so include William Lane Craig, and his utilization of Molinism.

5. The Charge that Calvinist Determinism is Primarily Philosophical

It is the ultimate irony that an Arminians would accuse the Calvinist of philosophical sophistry regarding the issue of divine determinism and the sovereignty of God. Brendan calls the Calvinist doctrine of predestination i.e. determinism, a “biblically unwarranted,” “extra-biblical, philosophical-theological construct,” that resembles “secular philosophical presuppositions.” It is ironic that Calvinistic biblical predestination is accused of being anti-biblical philosophy, when some Arminians, perhaps even Brendan, regard Molinism as a system that may be able to resolve the issue of divine foreknowledge and human free will (the difficulty of which does not exist within Calvinism). If one asserts that Molinism is more agreeable to biblical revelation than Calvinist predestination (which is really just biblical predestination), then such an individual is thoroughly confused. Arminian doctrine of libertarian free will and the undeterministic sovereignty of God is the one that is guilty of an “extra-biblical, philosophical-theological construct;” a Greek philosophical construct in particular.

6. God is so Powerful and Humble that He Makes Himself Powerless

“Why not rather think that divine sovereignty does not require metaphysical predeterminism, and simply say that God has the freedom, the power, the right, the wisdom and (dare I say) the humility to create free creatures to reflect his own image and likeness? That is my inclination.”

Calvinist theology holds that God’s sovereignty is based upon divine determinism because Calvinists believe the Bible teaches it. Once again, if Brendan wants his argument to be compelling he ought to provide a positive case for his Arminian position from scripture while also refuting common texts that are quoted in support of Calvinism.

As for God possessing “freedom” and “humility” to create creatures that thwart his will, these are weasel words designed to conceal a contradiction. The Arminians position is that God has eternally purposed that his purposes will be thwarted by the free decisions of his creatures, or, rather, his supposed antecedent will is thwarted. Such a position is a glaring contradiction. Unfortunately, saying that God possessed “humility” in creation is another way of saying that God has eternally submitted to the purposes of his creation and not the other way around. It is my opinion that this borders on blasphemy. As Gisbertus Voetius once stated, “We do not go for such a concord which subjects God to man, creator to creation.”

7. Bad Illustration

“Imagine a King in his Kingdom. The human king can still reign as sovereign over his people whilst allowing the people to go about their business freely under the sovereignly decreed constraints and laws of the land decided on by him.”

This is an insufficient illustration. To apply the word “sovereign” to a human king and to God in the same way is unfounded. One could make any number of comparisons that would be true for the human but cannot be true for God. The human did not create his subjects, does not govern the various aspects of creation in his kingdom, does not know the hearts of his subjects etc. If it is asserted that God also does none of these things, then we have reduced the eternal God to a creature. “Sovereign” cannot be univocally applied to both God and a human king, therefore this illustration demonstrates nothing.

8. General Contradictions

“God is the good governor of our world working all things to the good ends for his Kingdom and his people”

Brendan here alludes to Ephesians 1:11 which states God “works all things according to the council of his will.” Since Brendan affirms this, when he and scripture says that God “works all things” could we not deduce from this that God “determines all things” after the council of his will? We certainly can, though Brendan still somehow denies Calvinist determinism.

“This question really boils down to asking us to consider whether God is so all-powerful, such that he can place himself in a situation that would render him power-less (like lifting an all-powerfully created rock).”

Although Brendan has carefully distinguished his view of sovereignty from the determinist sovereignty of Calvinism, and denies that God “can place himself in a situation that would render him power-less,” by denying the biblical doctrine of God’s predestination/determinism, I contend that Brendan affirms (though indirectly) that God can make himself powerless. God shows his “humility” in doing so. If God can be “sovereign” yet not control the events of history, nor the will of individuals, and fail to save all whom he wishes to save, one must wonder how the Arminian view of God renders him “sovereign” at all.

Conclusion In answer to the question of the title, “Does Divine Sovereignty Require Determinism?”, the answer is a resounding yes. I do not say that God’s sovereignty requires determinism due to some previous philosophical conviction, but because the scriptures plainly teach it. All other views are either confused and self-contradictory, or consistently heretical. I applaud Brendan for distinguishing his own view of sovereignty from the Calvinist view. Clarifying how Arminians regard divine sovereignty in contrast to Calvinism helped to prevent confusion, and may inform ignorant Calvinists who are unaware of these qualifications. However, I believe my brief critique has demonstrated the weaknesses of Brendan’s position and presentation. As Christians we must cast off the erroneous assumption of free will and submit to God and his Word. We exist to fulfill God’s purposes, for in Christ “all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16) and we cannot nullify his sovereign will, “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27). To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.