Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Jeffrey Simon on Calvinism, free will and moral responsibility

I spent some time last night chatting with some of my readers on Facebook, and Jeffrey Simon was one. He wrote this essay on Calvinism versus Molinism which I thought was good enough to post. I am in agreement with Jeffrey on this issue, BUT I did include some debates featuring Calvinist James White at the bottom of the post. I just wanted to present an excerpt from his essay that makes a point that I thought would get lots of responses from Calvinists. Jeffrey is quite aggressive.

The essay is here, but you have to be his friend in order to see it.

Excerpt:

When harmonizing man’s perspective and God’s perspective, the Calvinist embraces what is known as theological fatalism.  They redefine free will and embrace compatibilism.  Essentially compatibilism says that determinism and free will are compatible, hence the name compatibilism.  In the same way that the wind blowing causes the trees to move, our desires and environment produce an effect which would be our action.  When we make a decision, we could not have chosen otherwise.  The Calvinist likes to say that we choose according to our greatest desire.  This would explain how God is in control of everything and more specifically our salvation.  How does God ensure the salvation of certain individuals? He changes their desires so they will freely choose Him.  This brings up an objection though.  If God desires that all are saved (1 Tim 2.4) and does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze. 33.11) and God “can save all whom He chooses to save”, then why are not all saved?  The Calvinist responds by making a distinction in God’s will.  While it is God’s revealed will and desire [thelo] that all men are saved, it is not His decreed will [boulomai] that all will be saved.  Essentially, God desires that all are saved and has a general love for the reprobate, but He has predestined them to Hell because His will [boulomai] trumps His desires [thelo].  Within Calvinism, there is a smaller section that claims regeneration logically precedes faith.  Because we are “dead” in our sin, we must be made alive or regenerated before believing.  How can a dead man believe and make himself alive?  In the same way that Lazarus was commanded to be raised from physical death, we are commanded to be made alive (through regeneration) from our spiritual death.

In my estimation, the main problem with Calvinism is that it embraces a causally deterministic system.  How can we freely make decisions yet God determined them for us?  It is not a mystery, but rather a contradiction.  In fact, at this point Calvinists are in agreement with naturalists because nearly all naturalists embrace compatibilism or determinism due to the fact that naturalism implies physicalism or materialism.  Now, imagine reading through the Bible with the idea that free will does not exist.  It is rather dizzying to imagine such a thing!  Dr.  William Lane Craig sums it up nicely when he says,

”Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture. The classical Reformed divines recognized this. They acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with Scriptural texts affirming divine sovereignty is inscrutable. D. A. Carson identifies nine streams of texts affirming human freedom: (1) People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands, (2) people are said to obey, believe, and choose God, (3) people sin and rebel against God, (4) people’s sins are judged by God, (5) people are tested by God, (6) people receive divine rewards, (7) the elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative, (8) prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and (9) God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension, pp. 18-22). These passages rule out a deterministic understanding of divine providence, which would preclude human freedom” (The Only Wise God).

If God has determined our every thought and action, yet those nine things hold true, then it turns the Bible into a charade.  How can anything be expected of us if we can’t make decisions?  In response to this, the Calvinist may say “so what”.  It may violate our fallen sense of justice, but God can do as “He pleases and no one can hold back His hand or say to Him: ‘What have You done?’” (Dan 4.35).  God can determine us to do immoral things and hold us responsible because He is God.  In fact, in the Book of Acts when Peter and John are talking about Christ’s crucifixion, they say that God “anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever His hand and His purpose predestined to occur.” Even though God predestined them to crucify Christ, they were held responsible.  While this is possible it surely does not seem plausible.  Turning to the book of Judges, for example, we would find ourselves asking why God determined Israel’s rebellion so many times.  One only has to retort, so God is the author of evil, then?  If I were to pick up a stick and use it to move a rock, what moved the rock? Technically the stick moved the rock; however, no one would say that.  I moved the rock by picking up the stick and using it.  It is no different with God.  Surely those men crucified Christ, but it was really God behind the scenes.  This intrudes upon the holiness of God because He cannot stand sin (Psalm 5.4) and cannot even tempt man (Jas 1.13) yet alone causally determine evil.  Continuing, let’s take this causally deterministic system and God’s will as described by Calvinists to its logical conclusion.  First of all, as I just mentioned, the biggest problem is that God becomes the author of evil.  Second of all, there can be no “well-meant offer” of the Gospel to all persons if God has determined their destruction in hell.  In regards to God’s will, a better way, I think, to understand it would be that while God desires all men to be saved, His will is to save those who believe.  This does well with texts that say that God desires that all men are saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) (and it also does not make God look hypocritical).  There are numerous texts where God exhorts people to believe, yet they reject Him.  For example, in Isaiah 5 God is disappointed with Israel because of their continuous sin and He asks what more could He have done for them.  God had provided all the means for godly living, yet Israel rejected Him.  Why would God waste His time with people whom He predestined to Hell and had no chance of salvation?  Also, if it’s God’s “secret” will to save some and damn some, then how can anyone know about it?

Is there anyone on the Calvinist side reading this who can explain how people can be responsible for sinning if they have no way to avoid it? I am not sure if a person can be responsible in that case because the only way that they can not sin is if God does something, and he chooses not to do it. It’s like giving a person a final exam but locking them out of the classroom all semester long.

Actually, I can see how that might actually be offensive to atheists, as in this debate between William Lane Craig and Edwin Curley of U of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Probably the best way to settle this is with debates. But I think that the only Calvinist who has debated on this issue is James White. So I put his debates below. I don’t think that famous Calvinists like Mark Dricoll and even Wayne Grudem defend Calvinism in formal public debates. Can anyone point out any debates that I may have missed? I want formal debates with good scholars on either side so I can make sure that my mind was made up based on evidence.

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59 Responses

  1. Seth says:

    You’ve probably read these two articles by Koukl, but I thought I would post them just in case you haven’t.

    Bad Arguments Against Calvinism
    http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5130

    Sovereign Grace and Free Choice
    http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8201

    • Thanks, I’m looking for some arguments against my view. I actually spoke to Koukl about this face to face a while back.

      • Seth says:

        Late reply I know, but I’ve been busy.

        So how did the conversation go with Koukl?

        • He had no response to why God chooses some to save some and not all – he was content to call it a mystery. For my view, we went all the way down to prevenient grace and he said that he found that to be ad hoc. I only ask that he understand my middle knowledge view, and he did understand it perfectly. I was happy with that. I was not happy when he pulled the semi-Pelagianism thing on me, but that was only for a moment.

          • Seth says:

            Yeah, I understand middle knowledge and try to make sure people I talk to know about it too. In fact, my wife is a middle knowledge advocate because she sees it as the best explanation for the salvation and the problem of evil. I do think it answers the problem of evil quite nicely, however, I still do not fully embrace it. I think there are some mysteries, just like with eschatology. The view I hold for eschatology is “pan-tribulation,” i.e., it’ll all pan out in the end just the way God wills it to. :) When pushed further, generally, people don’t like my views on eschatology which is another reason I tell them up front I’m a pan-tribulationist.

  2. Trevor M. says:

    Piper argues via Edwards concerning a similar topic…it is in his TULIP DVD…also reproduced here mostly: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/is-the-glory-of-god-at-stake-in-gods-foreknowledge-of-human-choices

    Begin reading (specifically) at the heading “God’s Deity Connected with His Foreknowledge”. I think the categories of “physical ability” and “moral ability” can be helpful to this discussion as well. Those points are summarized here: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/free-bodies-bound-wills

    – Trevor

  3. Eldnar says:

    James White has offered to debate William Lane Craig (and others) at the Biola campus on this topic on several occasions. WLC has refused every time for some reason. However, there aren’t many debates between the opposing schools of thought because *very few* people will formally debate scholarly reformed theologians.

    Here’s a few that might help. James debated George Bryson from Calvary Chapel twice on the topic (once on the radio and once on DVD).

    Radio: http://www.aomin.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=175

    DVD: http://www.monergismbooks.com/Few-Are-Chosen-Debating-Free-Will–Predestination-DVD-p-18137.html

    Although here is a debate I recently watched: http://www.amazon.com/Great-Debate-Predestination-Free-Will/dp/B00135OVIS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1292031653&sr=8-1

    The production value isn’t that good but the content is.

    Book debates
    Debating Calvinsim (James White vs Dave Hunt)
    The Potter’s Freedom (James White vs Norman Geisler) Not really a debate per se (Geisler has refused to formally debate the topic) but it’s a response to Norm’s “Chosen but Free”

    However, I think the most scholarly explanation is conveyed in R.C. Sproul’s DVD “Chosen By God”

    Personally, I can’t understand how anyone can read the Bible and not see God’s *absolute* sovereignty plastered all over. God make it ABUNDANTLY clear that He is in control, but I think it’s best illustrated in a quote I heard at a conference earlier this year. I can’t remember who said it, but I’ve found it to be so true. “The greatest idol in the 21st century is the will of man”

    • bography says:

      Elna

      I’m with you on this one. Today in church we read John 1. I always jump with delight (in my heart, of course) at this part:

      11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
      12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
      13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, but of God.”

      • Yeah, non-Calvinists don’t deny that God draws people toward him first.

        • bography says:

          “Yeah, non-Calvinists don’t deny that God draws people toward him first.”

          “NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, but of God.”

          There’s nothing about draw first (God), man’s will second.

          By the way, if you can will to be born again, then surely, you can will to fall back in your coffin, and when God starts to quicken you again, you may or may not decide to rise again (to faith). And God, according to “free willers” will never stop prodding, beseeching you to rise again and stay risen.

      • Jeff says:

        “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.”

        Right, we receive Christ and then we become a Son of God.

        In the greek the word “of” (of blood, of will, of flesh) means “out of”. Yes, we are not born “out of” those things.

    • Please be sure to listen to the James White vs Michael Brown debates I posted.

  4. bossmanham says:

    Compatibilism has never seemed very compatible to me, haha. I think Peter Van Inwagen has pretty much defeated any notion that we can be morally responsible for what we do on determinism. His consequence argument: “If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.”

    • bography says:

      Bossmanham

      Good philosophy, bad theology.

      • Philosophy is the application of rules of logic to propositions. Are you claiming that theology is not bound by the rules of logic? Because that’s what Boss is doing when he points out the contradictions in Calvinist theology. E.g. – holding people morally accountable for something they are not capable of choosing to avoid.

        • bography says:

          Logic can only take you so far. One of its primary uses in scripture is that if God says “not by the will of man, but of God” and “it is not to him who wills” (Romans 9), it means exactly that.

          But then we come to other verses that say “turn to me” etc. So, now we seem to have a logical contradiction. But they’re both in scripture. The important point is to use scripture as your “thesis” (your starting point). But if you use philosophy (logic, epistemology, ontology, moral philosophy) as your “thesis,” you will end up rejecting or twisting scripture.

          So, what shall we do with these seemingly illogical conflicts. Let God be God (which you can only do, if He gives you that ability). AND struggle – gloriously – with it.

          Fancy that; God saved a wretch like me. Hmmm, maybe I’m not all wretch, ’cause there is something (good) in me; if not I wouldn’t have said a teeny weeny “yes.” All – well at most 99.999999999999999999999% – glory to God

          http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/coming-to-faith-in-christ-all-i-need-to-do-is-say-yes-you-wish/

          • So basically if I boil down your position to two things it’s these:

            1) Affirm self-contradictory things because John Calvin says so
            2) Attack anyone who disagrees with John Calvin as not believing in the Bible

            This reminds me of another world religion that’s in the news a lot lately.

            I take the Bible as my starting point, and I am all for letting God be God. So these veiled attacks on my personal character may seem very convincing to you, but they don’t mean anything to me. I can call you a lot of names just as easily in order to insinuate that you are not a Bible-believing Christian, but that’s not how you persuade someone to agree with you. I could say that you are not taking the Bible seriously, and that you are not letting God be God, but that you are disingenuous and heretical and asserting “the will of man” over the words of Scripture, and that God hasn’t given you “the ability” to discern what the truth is about him. But that would just be a load of personal attacks, and not really an argument.

            Please enjoy the debates with James White and Michael Brown that I’ve linked and don’t bother commenting here again. I am sure that someone as open-minded as you are, and as confident in logic and reason as you are, is very sincere about seeking the truth.

  5. Jeff says:

    I would love to see WLC and James White debate soteriology. Although I’m a fan of WLC, I have to admit that James White is more thorough in his exegesis of the text. However, WLC being the philosopher that he is will point out that some of White’s arguments are non-sequitur’s.

    I’ve actually read DC, CBF, TPF, and listened to White’s critique of WLC’s podcasts. There was another book I read by White too, but I can’t remember the name.

    You say,

    “Personally, I can’t understand how anyone can read the Bible and not see God’s *absolute* sovereignty plastered all over. God make it ABUNDANTLY clear that He is in control, but I think it’s best illustrated in a quote I heard at a conference earlier this year. I can’t remember who said it, but I’ve found it to be so true. ‘The greatest idol in the 21st century is the will of man’ ”

    Nobody is denying that God is in control of all the meticulous details in life. You seem to think that if man has a will, then somehow God is in control. Furthermore, you haven’t refuted the objection I brought up above; namely, that without free will God becomes the author of evil.

    Greg Koukl – a calvinist – says the following:

    “One objection that falls short makes much of the “conflict” between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. I personally don’t see the tremendous conflict. I think God can be sovereign and fulfill His purposes even though we act freely. One thing that allows Him to do that is His omniscience.

    Consider the objection: “If God is sovereign, guaranteeing certain outcomes in people’s lives, then there is no free will.” This is flawed thinking. It doesn’t follow that if God is in full control, then free acts are not possible. What is critical here is the way in which God is in control, the method He uses to guarantee the outcomes.”

  6. Allen says:

    You asked: “Is there anyone on the Calvinist side reading this who can explain how people can be responsible for sinning if they have no way to avoid it?”

    The same question was anticipated by Paul in Romans chapter 9:18-19 –
    “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
    You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’”

    The only answer we are given is this, in verses 20-21:
    “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”

    • When I read these specific verses, my response is that God is allowed to create people who he knows will freely sin, and freely reject him and his offer of a relationship. They may say to God “If you know that I am freely going to sin, and freely going to reject all your advances (should you choose to draw me to you) then why create me?”

      God is allowed to create people who will reject him so that he can use them to draw other people towards him and accomplish everything he wants to do. And the people he creates are not allowed to overrule God’s plans, or his right to say at every moment “This is what I want”.

      • Allen says:

        “They may say to God ‘If you know that I am freely going to sin, and freely going to reject all your advances (should you choose to draw me to you) then why create me?’ ”

        You have changed the question asked in the text. The question is not, “Why did you create me?’ The question Paul anticipates being asked is “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’” This clearly indicates that Paul knows that anyone understanding what he is teaching knows that God hardens who He wants and has mercy on who he wants, and God still assigns fault although the creature cannot resist God’s will. And Paul clearly recognizes that what he is teaching will seem so unfair to us – but he just as clearly puts us in our place as having no right to question god on this point. I know this may seem unsatisfactory to you (as well as others) but the plain meaning is unmistakable.

        Even granting your explanation of this verse, the end result is the same – God creates, knowing what the creature will do, and knowing the creature will be damned. If it makes you feel better that the creature freely chose to be damned, then so be it, but it sounds like a distinction without a difference, as concerns God’s creation of the situation and the end result.

    • Jeff says:

      Romans 9:18,19 is one of the most abused verses in the Bible when it comes to soteriology.

      I’m actualy pleased that you brought up verses 20 and 21.

      Paul is talking about how the Jews are being molded into vessels of wrath, but why are they being molded into vessels of wrath? Because of their disobedience and refusal to accept Christ. There is no example in the Bible where people are “hardened” by God or anything of the sort prior to hardening themselves/rejecting God. Notice also that in verse 23 the vessels of glory are being actively prepared by God, while God is passive in the vessels of wrath.

      Furthermore, let’s go back to Jeremiah 18 where the original potter and the clay analogy is used.

      (Jeremiah 18:3-11, NASB from Bible Gateway)

      3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel.

      4But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

      5Then the word of the LORD came to me saying,

      6″Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the (B)clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.

      7″At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to (C)uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it;

      8(D)if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will [a](E)relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.

      9″Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to (F)build up or to plant it;

      10if it does (G)evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will [b](H)think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.

      11″So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am (I)fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you Oh (J)turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.”‘

      Two observations here:

      1) Notice that whatever the Potter does with the clay is contigent upon what the clay does.

      2) In the world of ceramics, you can’t make whatever you want with any kind of clay. You need a specific kind of clay in order to make a specific item. The people in this time period/context would have known this. God is using spoiled clay and molding it into a vessel of wrath. Now go back to Romans 9 with that in mind.

      So, I’ve answered the objection posed against the non-Reformed view, however, you still haven’t answered the objection of how God isn’t the author of evil…???

      • Allen says:

        God told Abraham that he was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart in response to Moses before Moses ever confronted Pharaoh.
        “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.’ ” God stated this as a certainty before Pharaoh ever had a chance to respond to Moses.
        Exodus 4:21

        A lifeguard watching a person swim out over his head and drown, refusing to attempt a rescue, is “passive.” If the lifeguard was omnipotent and omniscient and created the swimmer, warned him about the danger,knowing he would ignore it and drown, you still have the problem of the lifeguard starting the whole chain of events with the certainty of the swimmer’s drowning death at the end. Trying to point out the swimmer’s free actions ring somewhat hollow – it sounds like a distinction without a difference as far as the end result, which would have never happened without the lifeguard’s creation of the swimmer in the first place.

        i am sorry, but it just seems silly to think that clay can have any causal influence whatsoever in the hands of a potter, which fits in nicely with Paul’s rebuke about the creature answering back to God – it is just plain silly to presume to do so.

        God is the primary cause of all things. God is not the author of evil in the sense that He ordains secondary causes to think up and do the evil, which He uses for his purposes. Read where God states evil thoughts will come into Gog’s mind, who will then devise an evil scheme to attack Israel, and that God is actually summoning Gog against Israel, and then punishes Gog for doing so. Ezekiel 38:10-11,16,18,21;39:1-4
        This is only one Biblical example of this.

        • Jeff says:

          God “will” harden Pharoah’s heart. When you read through the story, we find that Pharoah hardened it first.

          Your analogy fails because it leaves us wondering *how* the person got in the body of water (pool, ocean, lake?)in the first place. Either 1) the life guard threw him in there (God causes people to sin) or 2) the person jumped in on his own (people sin of their own free will)

          You say,

          “If the lifeguard was omnipotent and omniscient and created the swimmer, warned him about the danger,knowing he would ignore it and drown, you still have the problem of the lifeguard starting the whole chain of events with the certainty of the swimmer’s drowning death at the end.”

          WLC answers this objection in one of his articles, although I forget which one. It’s in a few different places actually.

          Next you say,

          “i am sorry, but it just seems silly to think that clay can have any causal influence whatsoever in the hands of a potter, which fits in nicely with Paul’s rebuke about the creature answering back to God – it is just plain silly to presume to do so.”

          Notice how you haven’t dealt with the arguments, but rather you just assert that what I’m saying is silly.

          I think what you’re saying is silly, therefore I’m right. (Non sequitur)

          Lastly, you say the following:

          “Read where God states evil thoughts will come into Gog’s mind, who will then devise an evil scheme to attack Israel, and that God is actually summoning Gog against Israel, and then punishes Gog for doing so. Ezekiel 38:10-11,16,18,21;39:1-4.”

          Ok, so God uses one nation to judge another. He does that all the time. It doesn’t mean that God somehow causally determines evil. The secondary causes thing doesn’t work either. This just leads me to wonder if you even read the original blog post? I discussed these things in the excerpt of my paper.

          • Thanks, Jeff.

            Craig might have discussed that objection in this one:
            http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8111

            I think that God is free to decide that the salvation of some is worth the damnation of others, so long as they are responsible for their own decision to separate themselves from God.

          • Allen says:

            I think you missed my point about God and Pharaoh.
            1. If God says ahead of an event that it is going to happen, is there any chance that the predicted thing is not going to come to pass? Whether you say “God still doesn’t cause it, he just knows what the free creature is going to do,” then what is the difference? Under your theory, He knew Pharaoh would do this before He ever created him, but God still chose to create him to fulfill His purposes. Paul tells us in Romans 9:17 that the whole purpose God raised up Pharoah was to show his power and get glory. If it makes you feel better to preserve Pharaoh’s “free will” in the matter, then I don’t think any amount of argument otherwise is going to change your mind, but you still haven’t escaped the principal that God is the primary cause of all things, and created beings, (with a free will under your theory) that were/are certain to be damned and make wrong/sinful choices.
            2. The first reference the scripture gives us concerning pharaoh hardening his heart, AFTER God says HE will harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3), is Exodus 7:13. You will search in vain to find any reference there to Pharaoh hardening his own heart. The verse says,
            “Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.” And what had the Lord just said in verse 3? That HE would harden Pharaoh’s heart. “As the lord had said” is repeated several more times in connection with verses that mention the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. When the scripture later makes a reference to Pharaoh hardening his heart in Exodus 8:15, He is just doing what God said He was going to make him do before any of the chain of events got started, and the verse, again, makes reference to “as the Lord had said” – which,as we know, was that God was doing it.

            You actually just proved my analogy – whether the person went in over his head of his own free choice, or was thrown in by the lifeguard, and if the lifeguard has the power to save him, yet chooses to watch him drown, then the lifeguard’s intention – the death of the swimmer – was realized, whichever way you want to theorize as to how the swimmer entered into the life-threatening situation.

            Sorry you have an objection to my use of the word “silly.” I try not to draw conclusions that are silly, and if they are shown to be silly, I would abandon them. It seems an appropriate way to characterize some assertions, such as “the food that I eat makes itself taste good if it wants me to eat it,” or clay forms itself on the potter’s wheel and then has a right to complain about what it was molded into. Paul thought it just as silly – that is why he uses the analogy in conjunction with proving that it is silly for the creature to say to the creator, “Why have you made me this way?” Just substitute the word “illogical” for “silly” in my post above.

            Concerning Gog against Israel as prophesied by Ezekiel –
            1. God is “against Gog” at the time the prophesy was made. 38:3
            2. In the latter days, God will bring Gog against Israel in order to “vindicate [His] holiness before their eyes.” 38:16
            3. The thought that Gog will certainly have in the future to go against Israel is an “evil scheme.” 38:10
            4. When Gog does what God has caused them to do – go against Israel – God’s “wrath will be roused in [His] anger,” (38:18) and God will “summon a sword against Gog” and “enter into judgment with him” 38:21
            5. The prophesy is repeated in Ezekiel 39:1-4 –
            -”I am against you, Gog”
            -”I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel.”
            -”Then I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.”
            -”You shall fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God.”

            God will judge and punish Gog for doing something God made Gog do. I can’t really say it any better than scripture.

            As for secondary causes, I understand that you don’t believe in them. Aside from the Ezekiel prophesy, consider 1 Kings 22:19-23:
            “And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”

            Blessings to you in the Lord. I do believe brothers can sincerely disagree on these matters. We grow and mature as we hash these things out. To God alone be glory!

        • Jeff says:

          This is in regards to your other msg below since there was no “reply” option on it.

          If God says something is going to happen, then it will certainly (not necessarily) happen. I recommend the book “The Only Wise God” by William Lane Craig on this topic.

          By primary cause, it seems to me as if you mean that nothing happens without God willing it. Even in the Molinist view, God actualized a world in which there would be reprobate. If this is what you mean by “primary cause” then I agree. (Also, why are the reprobate, reprobate? Because God determined that they would go to hell or because of their own disbelief?) However, when I say God “causes” I mean He does something. That’s what I was talking about in the God using the stick example up above.

          You’re still leaving something without an explanation in your lifeguard analogy. How did he get in the body of water // how did man fall into sin? Did God make us sin and then leave us here? Or did we sin of our own free will and then God leaves us here? Furthermore, this is assuming though that God isn’t trying to save everyone, which I would argue He is (1 Tim 2:4, Acts 7:51).

          You still haven’t dealt with the text of Jeremiah 18. If we take any analogy too far, then it doesn’t work. Here’s the point: you need a certain kind of clay to create a certain item. Israel spoiled itself and because of this God is now forming it into a vessel of wrath.

          God is using Gog to punish Israel. It doesn’t say *how* God is doing this though. You want to say “determine” or “cause” but we know this cannot be true because God cannot even tempt people. God is working through the actions of free men. Now, lets turn over to the text in 1 Kings. It proves my point. God used a spirit to influence Ahab, which further indicates that God is working through the free actions of creatures. So yes, God did it in the sense that He allows for it to happen, but He didn’t do it Himself. Does that make sense? I’m defining “did it” in two different ways.

      • bography says:

        Isaiah 45:7
        I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].

        [WK - I snipped the two dozen definitions of evil he put here]

        God does create various of these evils, but he does not create moral evil.

        But then you may say, what he murder of babies, and all the other terrible things in the world.

        The bottom line is that God ordains it, and yet is perfect and holiness itself.

        If you don’t understand that, so what. Let God be God; if he lets you.

        • Yeah, non-Calvinists don’t deny that God permits free creatures to commit acts that are moral evil. And non-Calvinists don’t deny that God uses calamities (natural evil) in order to achieve his ends. God allows these things to happen, but he is sovereign over history and his ends will be achieved.

          I think the sticking point here is the logical contradictions inherent in Calvinism. Non-Calvinists agree with the Bible properly interpreted.

        • Jeff says:

          “The bottom line is that God ordains it, and yet is perfect and holiness itself.”

          All the different camps agree with this statement. The question is *how* does God ordain it? By causally determining it or thorugh the free actions of men?

          Now I’m going to quote gotquestions.org

          “Isaiah 45:7 in the King James Version reads, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” How does Isaiah 45:7 agree with the view that God did not create evil? There are two key facts that need to be considered. (1) The word translated “evil” is from a Hebrew word that means “adversity, affliction, calamity, distress, misery.” Notice how the other major English Bible translations render the word: “disaster” (NIV, HCSB), “calamity” (NKJV, NAS, ESV), and “woe” (NRSV). The Hebrew word can refer to moral evil, and often does have this meaning in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, due to the diversity of possible definitions, it is unwise to assume that “I create evil” in Isaiah 45:7 refers to God bringing moral evil into existence.

          (2) The context of Isaiah 45:7 makes it clear that something other than “bringing moral evil into existence” is in mind. The context of Isaiah 45:7 is God rewarding Israel for obedience and punishing Israel for disobedience. God pours out salvation and blessings on those whom He favors. God brings judgment on those who continue to rebel against Him. “Woe to him who quarrels with his Master” (Isaiah 45:9). That is the person to whom God brings “evil” and “disaster.” So, rather than saying that God created “moral evil,” Isaiah 45:7 is presenting a common theme of Scripture – that God brings disaster on those who continue in hard-hearted rebellion against Him.”

          http://www.gotquestions.org/Isaiah-45-7.html

  7. Stan says:

    I’m not at all sure that “causal determinism” is an accurate representation of the Calvinist view. See the Westminster Confession III:I (“Of God’s Eternal Decree”) for the clearest statement I can find on the Calvinist position.

    On the other hand, if God knows all things perfectly in advance (Molinism) and knows who will commit what sin when, can they NOT commit those sins at those times? ;)

    • No, they’ll commit them, but foreknowledge of counterfactuals doesn’t cause them to sin, they do. For example, suppose tomorrow you catch me at work and present me with a plate of nachos and a plate of friend liver and onions. You would know in advance that I would throw the liver out and eat the nachos, with a col Coke Zero. Yummy! It’s my free decision, but you know exactly what I am going to do.

      • Wes Widner says:

        And, your choice of Nachos is in no way connected to your free action.

        “if God knows all things perfectly in advance (Molinism) and knows who will commit what sin when, can they NOT commit those sins at those times?”

        This question conflates omniscience with omnipotence. It assumes that God only knows what God does. As Jeff pointed out in the original article, this understanding of the knowledge of God fails to account for God’s knowledge of counterfactuals, or propositional truth claims of unobtained events.

  8. CMA says:

    It seems to me, for the Calvinist, salvation is not God “compelling persons to perform involuntary actions”. His grace is irresistible because a regenerate, born again heart has, for the first time, a “right understanding” (Matt 13:23) of Jesus and self and sin, etc., and is no longer the fool. The regenerate heart’s first act of wisdom is to freely choose to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Of course, in some sense, God and His truth and light are compelling, but only the foolish in heart would have to be forced to walk in them. The regenerate heart, who by the grace of God has a right understanding, freely chooses to walk in them. Just as freely as those in John 6:66 chose to walk away from Jesus given their wrong understanding.

    • Jeff says:

      Yes, even calvinists agree that accepting Christ is a free chocie.

      Like you said, God regenerates us and changes our desires so that we freely choose Him.

      The problem is two-fold.

      1) The whole concept of changing desires so we desire God presupposes a causally deterministic system, which, as shown above, leads us to unbiblical conclusions.

      2) Where in the Bible do we see regeneration preceding faith? It’s my understanding that the unregenerate can and do believe.

      • CMA says:

        Two good questions.

        1) “causally deterministic system”
        This statement makes since if in fact there exists a neutral ground from which man operates – neutral both epistemologically and spiritually. I believe the Bible is fairly clear that no such neutral ground exists. As John 3 puts it, we are either those that “remain” under God’s wrath or we are those that “have eternal life”. Or as Romans 6 puts it, we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. There is no third option. And the same can be said for the nature of our knowledge. It is either submitted to God or it is spurious and in rebellion; again no third option.

        When man’s condition is characterized as existing in some state of neutrality from which he can decide to choose God or decide to choose Satan, we are going some where that I believe is NOT supported by the Scriptural evidence.

        John 3:18-21, for example, discusses only two kinds of whoevers, not three – people who love the light (those who are born again) and people who hate the light. And John 3:6 makes clear that we have either a heart of flesh or a heart of Spirit, not a heart of neutrality.

        2) “regeneration preceding faith”
        Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 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. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

        Verse 27 above places the work of the Spirit before our “walk”. These verses from Ezekiel point to the truth Jesus revealed to Nicodemus in John 3.

        1 John 4:15 (ESV) — 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

        A response of belief itself demonstrates that God has already done a regenerative work in someone. There is no confession without an abiding.

        And another…
        1 John 2:29 (ESV) — 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

        Jonathan Edwards puts it like this, “Tis entirely in a man’s power to submit to Jesus Christ as a Savior, if he will; but the thing is, it never will be that he should will it, except God works it in him”.

        And this is why the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament defines belief as not just “an act” but “a state” – and in our context it is a state of being born again.

        Now a few questions for you. I have always been curious about this. How does a person who doesn’t have ears to hear and eyes to see; who is spiritually dead; who intellectually is offended by the Gospel (Romans 1); who does not have a heart of understanding; who loves darkness; and who remains under God’s wrath; what is it in this person that chooses God in any meaningful way? How is this choosing any different than those in John 6:66?

        And, on what grounds do you trust that the decision you made is not a spurious one? In other words, how do you justify this ability to truthfully choose God free from any sinful motives? If your belief was made in your own understanding, how do you know you are one who has a “right understanding of the heart”(Matt 13)? There is no reason to think that you are not fooling yourself for any number of reasons, if you were the source of your choice.

        Thanks for your patience.

        • Jeff says:

          1) I haven’t said anything about neutrality.

          2) The verse from Ezekiel doesn’t show regeneration preceding faith. Yes, it shows regeneration, but it doesn’t say when this happens in relation to faith.

          You say,

          “1 John 4:15 (ESV) — 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

          A response of belief itself demonstrates that God has already done a regenerative work in someone. There is no confession without an abiding.”

          There are quite a few verses that have the format of, “the one believing has eternal life” and I’ve read James White’s exegesis of those. However, I think that the point of the text isn’t to teach regeneration preceding faith, but rather something else.

          Let’s take 1 John 5:1, for example,

          “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God.”

          Kenneth Keathley in his book Salvation and Sovereignty: The Molinist Approach says the following:

          “Does this teach that saving faith is the product of the new birth? The context provides the answer. John is not presenting the order of salvation. Rather he is distinguishing between true Christians and the breakaway heretical groups who denied the incarnation of Jesus Christ (see 1 John 2:19-23; 4:1-3; cf. 2 John 7-11).”

          John is talking about assurance of salvation and so forth.

          Let’s turn over to John 20:31: “But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name”. Notice the order. Believing = life.

          Notice also that in the Gospel of John Jesus declares that “an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live….[but] you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” The ordo salutis is dead, believe, alive. Calvinism reverses the order by saying dead, alive, believe.

          I agree with Edwards. I’m not a follower of Pelagian.

          Before I answer the questions, let me restate it so I make sure I understand what you’re saying.

          1. What’s the difference between the man who accpets / rejects Christ? What makes one choose over the other?

          2. This isn’t really an objection against my theological system, per se, but I understand what you’re saying. Keathley’s model of “overcoming grace” takes care of this though.

          I’m still wondering though…how is God not the author of evil in the Reformed view? (Assuming you’re not a libertarian of course. There are some people in the Reformed Camp who reject compatibilist freedom.)

          • CMA says:

            Alright…well we obviously will just have to agree to disagree about the order.

            When you suggest that belief occurs first and then the new birth, it appears necessary to disregard, once again, that there is no neutral state. We are DEAD. We have already chosen.

            To address your other point, from a Calvinist’s standpoint, the one who believes, the one who hears, the one who understands with their heart, the one who confesses, is the one who is born again. These things are the fruit of the new birth. Quite simply, dead men can’t believe.

            Now, on to my two questions. I do earnestly want to have you answer them. So thanks for seeking to clarify them.

            My question was not “What makes one choose over the other?”. As I said, man is not in a neutral position to choose one over the other. The default position is spiritual death and blindness.

            1) My question is, to use the words of Ezekiel, what part of a man, in your view, would “cause” or enable a spiritually dead person to choose life in Christ? What is in a man that he could, on his own, choose Christ from his default position of enmity with Christ in his heart, mind and will?

            And once you answer that, then I’ll simply repeat the second question:
            2) How do you justify belief in Christ via (insert your answer to number 1 hear) when the Bible clearly teaches that man’s heart, will and intellect are both deceitful (again, the default position)? If you are the source (or beginning) of your belief, there is no objective transcendent foundation on which your salvation is based, for clearly man is not God. Your belief could just as easily be, like I said earlier, like those in John 6:66, a belief grounded in a misconception of who Jesus is, no matter how generous that misconception may be. For the Calvinist, this foundation is that God, in His grace, regenerated the heart of the unbeliever that he might bear the fruit of belief, confession, repentance, obedience, etc.

            I thoroughly answered your two questions…please answer mine. The better I understand where you guys are coming from, the better our communication can be.

            Thanks Again.

        • Jeff says:

          I’m still not convinced regeneration precedes faith due to those verses I provided above.

          1) Your question becomes tricky when you say, “what is in a man that he could, *** on his own ***, choose Christ from his default position of enmity with Christ in his heart, mind and will?” (emphasis mine).

          No one can choose Christ on his own (John 6.65). God has to draw us first and initiate salvation.

          So, once we clear that up then my original summary of your question stands. If everyone is given sufficient grace by God to believe – which non-Calvinists teach – then what makes one man choose over another?

          2) I believe as a result of God working in my heart. I’m not the “source” of my salvation.

          In the end, you seem to be assuming that we (the non-Reformed view) don’t have God’s grace in our system of soteriology. Again, God initiates salvation, but in the end the person can reject (Acts 7:51, Matthew 23:27).

          Your explanation of regeneration preceding faith * makes sense * but it isn’t something that is informed by Scripture.

          1) The key here is to understand what “dead” means. What does it mean in your view?

          2) How is God not the author of evil in a deterministic world? God regenerating us so we freely choose Him is based off compatibilism, which leads to unbiblical conclusions.

          • CMA says:

            Excellent, now we are getting somewhere.

            With respect to my first question, we agree with each other, that, in your words, “God has to draw us first and initiate salvation”. And even more, You indicated that, “No one can choose Christ on his own”. If this were so, there would be some enormous philosophical grounding problems.

            And then in answer to my second question, we also find agreement that our response is not the source of our salvation. And that, as you say, belief is “a result of God working in my heart”.

            We continue to disagree on regeneration preceding belief. And obviously, I disagree with “but it isn’t something that is informed by Scripture”.

            But, fortunately, we don’t have to be in agreement on that issue to continue the conversation. You have given me enough, aside from that, to probe further.

            Because, you have rightly determined that God did in fact have to do something first before we could be saved. And that something is, you suggest, “If everyone is given sufficient grace by God to believe…”.

            I think this can be fairly portrayed as something akin to a frontloaded deposit of His grace into fallen man’s heart, or a pre-regeneration.

            In effect, this pre-regeneration occurs even before the John 3 new birth. That gives a whole new dimension to the order of salvation.

            How is it possible, theologically, Scripturally, and even ontologically, for God’s grace to exist in one who God describes as have a default position of being unable to hear; or see; or have a right understanding; or who’s heart is one of stone; or who desires darkness and avoids the light; etc.? God doesn’t have a fond view of His pre-regeneration grace it appears.

            If this island of God’s grace exists in fallen man’s heart, where does this grace reside? Is our heart of stone dead except in that little part of it where God frontloaded His pre-regeneration grace? (BTW – I would expect that we would be in agreement that you are not talking about “common grace” – rain, reason, math (1+1=2), etc.)

            Apparently, whatever else this frontloaded grace is, it is a grace that has limits, because, even though it provides just enough to enable us to respond to the Gospel with belief if we choose to, we still require the additional grace of the John 3 new birth. In other words, you are suggesting not that there are different kinds of God’s grace, but something else very troubling, that God’s grace comes in different qualities.

            If His grace comes in different qualities, then surely His wisdom does; or His love; or His
            eternity; or His power. This is not a very BIG GOD.

            You rightly state that the “key here is to understand what ‘dead’ means”. And it seems we will find no agreement there either.

        • Jeff says:

          I’m a bit unsure of what you’re saying, so I’ll do my best here.

          You say,

          “Apparently, whatever else this frontloaded grace is, it is a grace that has limits, because, even though it provides just enough to enable us to respond to the Gospel with belief if we choose to, we still require the additional grace of the John 3 new birth. In other words, you are suggesting not that there are different kinds of God’s grace, but something else very troubling, that God’s grace comes in different qualities.”

          Here’s what I’m saying… We are spiritually dead prior to salvation. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts (I guess you would call this illumination of the Holy Spirit?), we believe, and then we are regenerated.

          When you start with the “qualities” part, I think you’re presupposing regeneration prior to faith, which is unwarranted.

          How do you deal with the verses above that show the regeneration preceding faith position is false? It works nice within TULIP, but it lacks biblical support.

          “If His grace comes in different qualities, then surely His wisdom does; or His love; or His
          eternity; or His power. This is not a very BIG GOD.”

          This is a non-sequitor, first of all. Secondly, I would assume that God’s love – especially in the Reformed view – does come in different qualities. Doesn’t God have a special love for the elect that He doesn’t have for the reprobate?

          • CMA says:

            Firstly, you continue to say it “lacks biblical support”. I’m not sure what good that does to say that. Clearly, some of the most well-respected theologians and preachers of our time and times past completely disagree and would argue the opposite.

            The reason there are disagreements about this is due to the biblical support (on both sides).

            Having said that, where is the Biblical evidence for this “frontloaded” grace that you argue works from the inside out of a man to give him the ability to respond in belief? When did God put it there?

            My point in the “qualities” discussion is that grace is clearly identified in the Bible as what saves a man. I simply want to know what is this grace of God that can reside in a fallen and dead man and not bear the fruit of salvation in every one in which it resides?

            I am, again, trying to completely understand your side. I don’t think we will agree on some issues, but it will certainly help the “communion of the saints” to understand each other.

          • CMA, thanks for being so gracious in your comments.

          • Jeff says:

            I don’t have a name for this grace. Keathley calls it “overcoming grace” others call it “prevenient grace”.

            Here’s how I see it.

            1) God offers the Gospel to all people (John 3:16, John 7:37)

            2) God desires the salvation of all (1 Tim 2:4) and doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11)

            3) No one can come to Christ on their own (John 6:65) so God provides the means (= grace) to come to Him (Titus 2:11, John 1:9, John 16:8, Romans 2:4) Also, when people reject God, it presupposes that He is trying to save them (Romans 1, Acts 7:51, Matthew 23:37)

            Even if I’m wrong, it wouldn’t follow that your position is correct. Therefore, you need to offer support as well.

        • bography says:

          CMA, great theology.
          Very grateful to you.

  9. Jeff says:

    I forgot to add something.

    “My point in the “qualities” discussion is that grace is clearly identified in the Bible as what saves a man. I simply want to know what is this grace of God that can reside in a fallen and dead man and not bear the fruit of salvation in every one in which it resides?”

    Yes, grace saves a man. However, man needs to either 1) accept this grace or 2) reject this grace. If he accepts, then he will bear fruit.

    I suppose there are different kinds of grace. I’m thinking out loud here, so be sure to give me your thoughts on this.

    There is common grace and then a salvific grace, would you agree? We might dispute who God bestows these graces upon, but we should at least agree with the distinctions, correct?

    I would also suspect that the people who never hear Christ have a different kind of grace as well? Or perhpas this is common grace? What about when one hears the Gospel, but rejects? Then maybe he was given common grace + salvific grace?

    I’m not really sure, to be honest. What was your point in bringing up the distinction?

    • CMA says:

      Yes, we are in complete agreement on the existence of salvific grace and common grace. Both are clearly taught in the Bible.

      And, yes, a third kind of grace that is needed for your position to be tenable, the grace that I call frontloaded grace, is what John Wesley calls prevenient grace.

      And in my opinion, it is the biggest problem for those who hold to your view. I have already outlined some of the problems with it. But, it might be easier to refer you to two short articles that tease them out.

      http://www.theopedia.com/Resistible_prevenient_grace

      http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/arminians-and-prevenient-grace/

      These speak more clearly than I ever could on the issue. Please read them. Even if you disagree, they will still benefit you. And let me know what you think.

      My next comments are kind of off topic, but I think they can help explain why earnest believers can come to such different conclusions – and it goes both ways.

      We tend to import into Scripture a longing to make sure that it comports neatly with compelling philosophical arguments that originate outside of Scripture. Some of these compelling arguments deal with how to address the problem of Evil. In many ways, this is a valuable exercise. But, the downside is that sometimes we must read into Scripture things that are not there in order to “force” it to comport neatly with our philosophical cravings. Pervenient Grace is, in my opinion, such a “forcing”.

      And I have outlined the way I support my view with the following posts at my blog (John 2:23-3:21):
      http://thejbomb.blogspot.com/2010/09/john-223-25-heart-and-mind-of-belief.html
      http://thejbomb.blogspot.com/2010/10/john-318-born-again.html
      http://thejbomb.blogspot.com/2010/10/john-3915-jesus-makes-it-personal-jesus.html
      http://thejbomb.blogspot.com/2010/11/john-316-21-two-worlds-two-whoevers-two.html

      • Jeff says:

        I won’t get a chance until next week to read through all of the sites. I’ll be sure to do it though.

        Even if I’m wrong when it comes to prevenient grace, you still have to set up a model of your own.

        I think that philosophy can be very helpful though. The Bible trumps philosophy of course (so there goes open-theism) but in areas where the Bible isn’t clear // didn’t spend alot of time, philosophy can help. Free will would be an example of this.

      • Jeff says:

        In regards to the second link…

        1) I think John 1:9 works still. The same word used for “enlightened” is also used in Ephesians 1:18.

        2) I’m all about unconditional election. I think those “foreknew” pasasges are talking about whom God “foreloved”.

        3) Skip

        4) Calvinist: “What makes one man believe and not the other?”

        Arminian: “Mystery to me.”

        Arminian: “Why does God choose those certain individuals?”

        Calvinist: “Mystery to me.”

        Like Keathley says in his book, I’m not saying that Molinism has no problems. I’m simply saying that it has the least amount of problems and is therefore the best position. So, I have no problem admitting that Calvinism appeals to mystery at a better point than the Arminian, however, I still think the position I have is consistent. Faith clearly isn’t a work and so the Arminian position still makes sense without being unbiblical.

        Every theological system carries some unwanted baggage, I think.

        5) No, I don’t think it does.

        6) Skip

        Question for the Arminian:

        “The Arminian contends that God foreknows both that some are and others are not going to believe in Christ in response to the gospel. He also affirms that God knows why they respond either in belief or unbelief, for God is omniscient and knows the secrets and inner motives of the heart. God also knows what it is in the presentation of the gospel that proves successful in persuading some to say “Yes” and what it is that proves unsuccessful in persuading those who say “No.” The question, then, is this: If God truly desires for all to be saved in the way the Arminian contends, and if he knows what it is in the means of persuasion contained in the gospel that brings people to say yes, why doesn’t he orchestrate the presentation of the gospel in such a way that it will succeed in persuading all people to believe? The point is this: Surely the God who perfectly knows every human heart is capable of creating a world in which the gospel would prove successful in every case. And if God desires for all to be saved in the way the Arminian contends, why didn’t He?”

        Someone else mentioned this above, or at least something very similar.

        Dr. Craig counters that in a few places, one of which is here: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle2.html

        • CMA says:

          I read Craig’s article and as I suspected, molinism also necessitates prevenient grace:
          – “God knows via His middle knowledge how any possible free creature would respond in any possible circumstances, which include the offer of certain gifts of prevenient grace which God might provide.”
          – “It is possible that God loves all persons and desires their salvation and furnishes sufficient grace for the salvation of all; indeed, some of the lost may receive even greater gifts of prevenient grace than some of the saved.”

          There is much more that concerns me, but to be fair, I will read Keathley’s book to see how he addresses “PG”. Craig’s one weakness, which is common among philosophers, is that he often does not substantiate his claims against Scripture. Hopefully Keathley does a better job of this.

          One thing that caught my eye was Keathley’s affiliation with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. As a Southern Baptist, I am proud that we are producing such well respected scholars. Andreas Kostenberger is another great example and is also at SEBTS.

          BTW – if you are ever looking for a great book that refutes Bart Ehrman’s claims concerning the unreliability of NT Scripture and its origins, Kostenberger’s book, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, is fantastic.

          I’ll respond again after I have read the book or received additional comments from you.

  10. CMA says:

    Likewise. You have been helpful.

  11. Jeff says:

    Middle-knowledge doesn’t require prevenient grace. Craig’s version of it does, but Calvinists such as Bruce Ware and John Frame have edorsed it and are still Calvinists // Campatibilists.

    From my reading, I’ve noticed that not very many people have a problem with middle-knowledge per se, but with how it’s used in one’s theological system. How do you feel about it?

    “Craig’s one weakness, which is common among philosophers, is that he often does not substantiate his claims against Scripture. Hopefully Keathley does a better job of this.”

    Yes, I completely agree with this. Most Arminians will often use controversial verses such as 2 Peter 3:9 and John 12:32 to prove their point, but they never offer an examination of the text. At best they’ll say that the “patience towards elect” and “kinds” is just nonesense, which obviously a non-sequitur. I don’t like it therefore it’s not true.

    Personally, I feel as if 2 Peter 3:9 is referring to the elect and John 12:32 is referring to kinds.

    I’m getting off topic, but…

    The patience is towards the “you” which is the “beloved” which is the elect. Some (such as John Frame) will say the “you” is the church and the chruch will contain believers and unbelievers, but I think there is a distinction between the false prophets because they are usually referred to as “they”. Also, the word used in the Greek for “willing” is significant. In fact, if this verse is referring to every single person then it would not only prove Calvinism false, but Universalism true.

    In regards to John 12:32, it says “all men” is english, but in the greek the word “men” isn’t there. Jesus says that He will draw “all” to Himself. So, the “all” is defined by context. When we go back a few verses we see that the Greeks enter the scence, which would indicate “kinds”. However, as I believe Calvin points out, what are nations but so many individuals? I would def agree that this verse is talking about kinds, but I might be hesitant about how we apply the verse in soteriology.

    I don’t agree with Keathley on everything (like his usage of the two verses above) but overall I agree with the position because he backs it up with other verses.

    A great thing about Keathley’s book is the tone. Debating Calvinism, for example, was too heated for a debate between Christians.

    I’ll be sure to check out the book on Ehrman. It’s too bad that atheists will often times only read one side of the debate. My class loves to quote Dawkins from the God Delusion (which I read) and Ehrman from Misinterpreting Jesus (that’s the name of the book, right? I think he has a few…) not realizing that 1) they have been refuted already and 2) especially Dawkins on philosophy… terrible.

    Questions for you:

    Do you adhere to limited atonement?

    If so,

    1) How do you interpret 1 John 2:2? (I’m personally undecided on the atonement, although I lean more towards limited.)

    • CMA says:

      Jeff,

      I am about finished with my reply to some of our previous conversations on Molinism. I have read (most) of Keathleys’ book and have quite a bit to say about his treatment of contingency, depravity and God’s grace. All of which is relevant to our discussion. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be finished.

      With respect to atonement I fall in the John Piper camp. Christ died for all, but all didn’t benefit in the same way.

      John Piper says, “…all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is “the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” [But all men are not] intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way.”

      And then he says, “How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ’s death so clearly demonstrates God’s just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness. In this sense Christ is the savior of all men. If God sent Jesus in the same way for everybody, everyone would be saved”.

      I haven’t yet given limited atonement as much attention as other aspects of Calvinism, but Piper’s view seems to make sense to me.

      Thanks again.

      • This is the part that doesn’t make sense to me.

        See:
        2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

        What is he waiting for if he is the unilateral cause of salvation? And why is the Bible saying that God doesn’t want anyone to perish? On the Calvinist view, God is the sole cause of salvation. If God wants no one perish, then no one would perish – on that view.

      • Jeff says:

        Based off that quick explanation, I’m not too sure about Piper’s view. However, I would need to study it more to make a final decision since I really haven’t put any time or effort into studying the atonement.

        At the moment, I see it as Christ’s death is sufficient for all but efficient for the elect.

        If Christ died for every sin of every person then all would be in heaven because Christ would have died for the sin of unbelief.

        @Wintery Knight

        As I explained above, I think 2 Peter 3:9 is referring to the elect.

        However, if we c.f. that verse with Romans 2:4 we see that that same patience is towards all men. Overall, I agree with your position, just not the verse you used to support it.

        God can save all whom He wants to save.
        God wants to save all.
        All men are saved.

        The conclusion is obviously false, so which premise breaks down? I would argue the first one does.

        • Oh yes… I can see how that verse might be referring to the elect! My fault.

          • bography says:

            2 Peter 1:1-3 indicates the audience intended for 2 Peter::

            Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

        • CMA says:

          After reading Keathley’s book, I have put a great deal of thought into his views…for fun and to the glory of God, of course.

          My ramblings may make no sense, but I hope that in them I have addressed much of what we have been discussing – Grace,Depravity and Man’s abilities.

          You can read them here:
          http://thejbomb.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-thoughts-on-keathleys-molinism.html

          Thanks Again!

  12. [...] men; How universities discriminate against evangelical Christians; Jeffrey Simon on Calvinism, free will and moral responsibility; Sometimes good intentions meet unintended consequences; Paul Copan interviewed on the hard [...]

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