Why did you choose to accept Christ? What makes you better?

circular_reasoning_works_because_pin_back_button-rcbfedfe125414a55888c40d7be265395_x7j3i_8byvr_512 Calvinists are notorious for asking the unsuspecting believer, “Why did you believe in Christ and someone else does not; are you smarter, or more praiseworthy in some way?” What the Calvinist and likely the target of his inquiry often do not understand is that the question itself is a fallacy known as “Question Begging.” (or more specifically “plurium interrogationum” or “Complex Question”)

Begging the question is a debate tactic where your opponent presumes true the very point up for debate.  For instance, if the issue being disputed was whether or not you cheat on your taxes and I began the discussion by asking you, “Have you stopped cheating on your taxes yet?” I would be begging the question.

Likewise, in the case of the Calvinist asking “Why did you made this choice,” he is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging. The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.

The cause of a choice is the chooser.  The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as some attempt to frame it. If someone has an issue with this simply apply the same principle to the question, “Why did God choose to create mankind?”  He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?

In short, whether one appeals to mystery regarding the function of man’s will or the function of the Divine will, we all eventually appeal to mystery.  Why not appeal to mystery BEFORE drawing conclusions that could in any way impugn the holiness of God by suggesting He had something to do with determining the nature, desire and thus evil choices of His creatures?

What also must be noted is that the decision to trust in Christ for our salvation is not a meritorious work.  Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven.  Think of it this way.  Did the prodigal son earn, merit or in any way deserve the reception of his father on the basis that he humbly returned home?  Of course not. He deserve to be punished, not rewarded.  The acceptance of his father was a choice of the father alone and it was ALL OF GRACE.  The father did not have to forgive, restore and throw a party for his son on the basis that he chose to come home. That was the father’s doing.

Humiliation and brokenness is not considered “better” or “praiseworthy” and it certainly is not inherently valuable.  The only thing that makes this quality “desirable” is that God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves, something He is in no way obligated to do.  God gives grace to the humble not because a humble response deserves salvation, but because He is gracious.

Calvinists often conflate man’s choice to confess with God’s choice to forgive while labeling it all “salvation.”  They go on to convincingly argue that God is “sovereign over salvation” which actually means “God controls man’s choice to confess and His own choice to forgive.”  It’s difficult to argue with someone who is making the case that God is “in control of salvation” and is “the One who gets all credit for salvation,” but that difficulty only exists due to the conflating of man’s responsibility to believe/confess with God’s gracious choice to save whosoever does so.  Of course Salvation is all of God, but that is distinct from man’s responsibility to humbly trust in Him for salvation. 

humble-yourselfClearly scripture calls us to humility and there is nothing which suggests we cannot respond in humility when confronted by the powerful clear revelation of God’s convicting life-giving truth through the law and the gospel:

1 Peter 5:5-6:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Isaiah 66:2: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.

James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

2 Kings 22:19: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”

2 Chronicles 12:7: When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak.

2 Chronicles 12:12: Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.

Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Proverbs 3:34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

Zephaniah 2:3: Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.

Matthew 18:4: Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 1:52: He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

James 4:6: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

If you will not humble yourselves, God will humble you in judgment.

  • The lost man’s inability to seek God does not equal the inability to respond to a God who is actively seeking to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
  • The lost man’s inability to save himself does not equal the inability to respond to God’s gracious and powerful appeal for all the lost to repent and believe. (Col. 1:23)
  • The lost man’s inability to attain righteousness by pursuing it through works does not equal the inability to attain righteousness by pursuing it through faith. (Rom. 9:30-32)

Imputed in His RighteousnessWhat then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  – The Apostle Paul

60 thoughts on “Why did you choose to accept Christ? What makes you better?

  1. I will open with your first paragraph. Question begging. Since the bible is clear that no one seeks after God. I will beg the question lol how does man “humble himself” to seek after God. And as you mentioned God did not have to create us nor does He need to save any of us. Only for His glory He will choose who will be saved. I often hear what kind of God is this? Why why why? It is a very deep mystery. I do not have all the answers but will love to exchange our 2 different views in a civilized manner. By what I have read and listened to I consider you my brother in Christ. You are a Calvinist you just don’t know it yet. Lol I say that jokingly but seriously at the same time. May God’s grace and peace be upon us.

    1. No one seeks God, but how does that prove no one is able to respond to a God who actively seeks us through powerful, life giving means like the gospel?

      In Romans chapter 3 there are two types of righteousness addressed. The first is righteousness by works through law, which is unattainable. The second (vs. 19-26) is righteousness by grace through faith. Proof the first is unattainable doesn’t prove the second is unattainable.

      You humble yourself in response to the truth that the law reveals. The law is a tutor revealing our sin and need for a savior. The truth of scripture reveals we are under wrath and sin leaves us empty and hurting…all of these are means God uses to break us, but “some trade the truth in for lies” and “become calloused.” They aren’t born hardened, but they can become such if they resist God’s truth for a long time (Acts 28:26-28)

      Thank you brother for your views. You sound like a great brother and if your in Dallas give me a shout and I’ll buy you a coffee. Blessings!

  2. Pastor Flowers writes, ” in the case of the Calvinist asking “Why did you made this choice,” he is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging.”

    This is wrong. Calvinism concludes that the Scriptures describe the Total Depravity of people – none has free will as the will is enslaved to sin so all reject salvation. God then regenerates restoring free will and the person accepts salvation. The issue in the question, “Why did you made this choice,” is to explain how two people – where both supposedly have free will – make completely opposite choices. Something is wrong. A decision to reject salvation is irrational and irrational choices are made by people who do not have free will. What else explains a decision to reject salvation?

    1. Something is wrong in your logic: That a short-sighted choice is incompatible with free will. No one is addicted to drugs before trying them the first time, but try them many do, even though they know it possible, even likely, that this will lead to their deaths, and surely to long-term misery. Even so, they desire the momentary pleasure, without regard for the cost. So then, the irrational choice is the result of either not believing the cost to be real, or else of not appreciating the cost when weighed against the short-term benefit. Conversely, following Christ is hard, as it means subduing your natural desires and subordinating them to God’s Will. Furthermore, living by faith seems foolish to the world, while living in righteousness rebukes them by your mere existence. For this reason, we, like our Master, are mocked and reviled by those who think themselves wise. Because the wicked do not acknowledge the horrible fate that awaits them, nor the glory that awaits the saints, they count it wise to be wicked and foolish to be righteous. Furthermore, among the wicked are a multitude of Christians, who have been seduced to believe the lie that God’s grace is license to sin. Woe to the hypocrites, who commit abominations and then say, “We are safe.” Oh, they believe in Christ as their Savior, but they will not have Him as Lord. They say, “We are saved by faith, not works, so our sins mean nothing.” In doing so, they deny the Lord who bought them, and their faith condemns them.

  3. Why did I say yes to Christ?

    Jesus said because I’m “good soil” and a “prudent maid” (Matt 13:23, 25:2)!

    Go ahead, Calvies…argue with Jesus, LOL! 😛

  4. well excuse my laziness but i did get a direct answer to the question of why two people who hear the gospel you have one accept it and one reject it. lets break it down.

    “Likewise, in the case of the Calvinist asking “Why did you made this choice,” he is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging. The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.

    The cause of a choice is the chooser. The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as some attempt to frame it. If someone has an issue with this simply apply the same principle to the question, “Why did God choose to create mankind?” He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?”

    there is no mystery here. nothing wrong with appealing to mystery(“calvinists” don’t know who the elect are or when the world is going to end) but you can’t appeal to mystery where there is none.

    if man chose apart from God’s determination than God didn’t know what the person was going to choose and is now only reacting to something he did not previously know. God is no longer omniscient. the master chess player may be able to counter all the moves but the fact still remains that he doesn’t know what moves will be made. impressive as that chess player may be, he’s not omniscient.

    then, yet another unrelated counter question is posed. “why did God choose to create mankind”? this, again has nothing to do with the question we’re asking, but the answer is that this is the means which God chose to glorify himself. was it necessary? no. just preferential

    why did God prefer that instead of something else? well…there’s your mystery, scripture doesn’t tell us that, but it does tell us why one person rejected the gospel and the other accepted. mystery is for when we have no information to draw a conclusion, not for when the information is there and we just decide to leave things open.

    i think the fundamental and fatal issue with the synergistic system is that God’s attributes(namely his omniscience and omnipotence) have to be compromised in order for the system to work.

  5. Let’s talk about Question Begging.

    Given your definition of free will you are correct that the question, “Why did you choose?” is begging the question. The beauty of contra-causal free will is that it is impossible to argue with it on its own terms. But is this how normal people think? Do average people never ask why someone did something? Isn’t the whole of psychiatry base on the idea that there is a cause for why we do what we do? In the law courts lawyers must show motive in order to prove their case. When there is no motive the accused is deemed insane and sent to the hospital rather than prison. Even by saying, “the cause of a choice is the chooser,” is self-contradictory–contra-causal means no cause!

    I know you hate the “You Too” argument but in this case I think it is relevant because your over arching argument against Calvinism is Question Begging. You equate Compatibilism with Hard Determinism and most of your argument would be crippled without that assumption. You have good cause for this as many popular Calvinists do equate the two but many do not!


    I have a question concerning your definition of free will. We all have unique natures–are we able to make choices in opposition to our natures?

    I very much appreciate this blog. I have listened to 75% of your podcasts and am working through the rest and I am reading your book.

    – Mike Ranieri, Toronto

    1. I do believe “normal people” think of one as having the ability to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action. And as you alluded to, the whole “innocent by reason of insanity” defense is based upon one’s inability to do otherwise due to an innate mental illness. That only goes to strengthen my case given that Calvinists believe that mankind is born ‘insane’ in that they are “total disabled” from birth to respond willingly to God’s own appeals for reconciliation, yet God treats them as if they are very ‘sane’ (able to respond willingly).

      Plus, there may be a given reason stated for why I chose option A over option B but that doesn’t negate the fact that the choice was freely mine and could have been otherwise.

      The notable compatibilistic scholars and their opponents universally affirm that compatibilism is no less deterministic than hard determinism. William Lane Craig addressed this in a podcast I listened to recently and if I can find the title I’ll send you the link. Also, monergism.com, a source the notable Calvinistic scholars often point to also affirms this. Maybe you aren’t a compatiblists, per se, but enjoy that label better than another that more aptly fits your beliefs?

      1. I think you failed to see the irony. When Calvinists ask you “why” you tell then that they can’t ask that. But you are free to suggest that there may be a “why” between option A and B. If there is no “cause” than there is no “why” and if no “why” than no “reason,” regardless of whether one can do otherwise.

        Hmmm… if compatibilism is the same as hard determinism than why bother with the different label? I appreciate WLC’s many debates but I’m not sure I trust him on this subject, though I would certainly listen to this podcast if you can find me the link. Remember that WLC is a molinist and he believes that God is bound it time. I think Peter van Inwagen gives a better perspective on free will and determinism.

        I’m not sure if you answered my question or perhaps I didn’t understand. So free will allows us to make choices against our natures? In other words, regardless of our specific natures we always have the ability to do otherwise?

      2. I think, Mike, you have set up a false dilemma. You ask – “So free will allows us to make choices against our natures? In other words, regardless of our specific natures we always have the ability to do otherwise?”

        Could you be using the word “nature” in a different way than Leighton uses it? Your view of nature (at least before regeneration) is of one that is incapable of choice unless it is changed, whereas Leighton, I believe, is defining nature as always including the ability to make choices for and against any offer made by God. Leighton’s “nature” has free will, so any choice would not be “against” it. I hope this helps.

      3. First, thanks so much for taking the time to respond to me. It is really frustrating when the debate become a semantic exercise. This is not a hard question. Why presuppose that my use of “nature” is some sort of wacky Calvinist interpretation? Why complicate things? We all have our own personalities and natures–the things that make us who and what we are. Come on, you know what I’m talking about. As human beings we have developed individual natures that define us–and we make choices that reflect that individual nature. The choices I make will be different from the choices that you make because we are different people and we have different natures. Satan’s nature is to deceive and lie. A predominate part of God’s nature is love. So, once again, I simply ask, can one make choices against one’s own nature? I think not. What do you think?

      4. Thank you Mike, I appreciate your desire to find common understanding. And I am sorry for not being more clear and perhaps too blunt. But I think we still might be speaking past each other.

        Maybe you could give me an example of what you mean by choosing against one’s nature. And can you understand that I am trying to say that Leighton’s view is that such a thing is not possible? The nature has the ability to make choices, so whatever choice that is made it is made in accordance with the ability of that nature.

        I think where we are heading is to discuss what ability to choose various offers of grace exists in man’s nature before regeneration.

      5. Thanks again for your patience and willingness to continue the conversation. Well I guess you’re right that we’re speaking past each other, because until we can agree on what we’re taking about we’re not going to get anywhere. And please, I want you to be blunt!

        I truly don’t understand why the word “nature” is such a mystery. I gave you a number of examples in my previous statement. But let me try to be more blunt–in fact let’s say that it is part of my nature to be blunt to the point of unfeeling. Consequently, more often than not, when asked for my opinion I will choose to just say it out right without regard for anyone’s feelings.

        When you ask me if I understand that Leighton’s view is that such a thing is not possible–well I’m not sure what you mean. It seems to me that there is a more direct way of answering the question.

        I think what you are telling me–and what Leighton’s view is–is that free-will is part of the make-up of every human being. In other words free-will is part of everyone’s nature. If that is correct than what does that imply? Does that mean people do not choose against their nature, or that they can choose against their nature because free-will always demands that the alternative be available?

        Forget regeneration, that’s not where I’m going. Honestly, I’m just trying to get you to admit that free-will demands the alternative regardless of our built in nature. That regardless of who we are we are always capable of choosing the alternative. I don’t think I can be more clear and blunt than that.

      6. Good morning Mike! I think I may see where we are thinking differently about the word “nature”. I am taking a generic meaning, which includes everything that makes up a person, and you perhaps are taking a more nuanced meaning, either focusing on a part of one’s nature as representative of the whole (e.g. preferences and inclinations), or as fixed and unable to change.

        You did say – “As human beings we have developed individual natures that define us–and we make choices that reflect that individual nature.” Does the nature stop developing in your view? Can it change and be developed further, or differently, by an individual utilizing his own will?

        You said – “I gave you a number of examples in my previous statement.” Maybe we are speaking past each other on the meaning of the word “example” too! 🙂 I am having a hard time knowing what examples you gave. But let me propose one that might help us get on the same page.

        A person’s nature, besides free will, includes preferences and inclinations. When going into a ice cream shop a person may prefer only vanilla, and they may be inclined to try combinations with vanilla, but they have a strong will against chocolate or anything that includes it. But someone comes into the shop and enlightens and convicts that person to taste and see that chocolate is not only delicious, but nutritious. That person now is free in their nature to go against their previous preferences and inclinations, and to take the opportunity to have their nature changed by trusting the invitation and good news about chocolate ice cream. I hope this helps.

      7. It looks like we are never going to get to what I really want to talk about because we can’t agree on a simple interpretation of a word. But perhaps that is okay because it illustrates the main problem I have with Leighton’s view and the entire Calvinist-Arminian debate. For Leighton it all boils down to his (mistaken) understanding of Calvinist Determinism. For me it has to do with an understanding of free-will.

        The frustrating thing is I never get a sense from your responses to me that anything I am saying is correct or that we can agree on anything–which makes it difficult to move forward in the conversation. So let me try. You say that we are thinking differently about the word “nature”. No, we are not. I agree with you on the generic meaning. The “nature” or “character” includes everything that makes up a person–no nuance here! As human beings our nature or character develops throughout our lives–we agree! But does this mean that we all start as blank slates and nothing throughout our lives is ever fixed or at least usual or predictable? The examples I gave of character were biblical: Satan’s character or nature is lies and deceit. God’s character or nature is love. When Jeffrey Dahmer invites you over for tea do you say, “Hey why not, it’s a new day and he is just as likely to choose not kill me as to kill me today.”

        You didn’t like my “blunt” example so let’s go with your ice cream example. A person has an inclination to choose vanilla over chocolate because they love vanilla and hate chocolate. But they are persuaded to try chocolate and they find that they like it and change their opinion. Okay, once again, we agree!

        Now hold on to you hat because I’m going to ask you some really nuanced questions. Why do they love vanilla? Why do they hate chocolate? Just because? Someone convinced them to try chocolate and now they like it. Had they never tried it before–then why did they hate it? Or had they tried it and hated it but now their tastes have changed and now they like it? Is it all just arbitrary? They used to hate chocolate but now the love it but tomorrow they may hate it again–who knows?

        Let me hit you with one last hard one. Calvinist also have an interpretation of free-will. What best illustrates your understanding of free-will: choosing between vanilla or chocolate or any other flavours or choosing between loving ice cream or hating ice cream?

        Once again I ask, does free-will always demand an opposite alternative to exist and must that opposite always be available for true free-will?

      8. Mike, I am well aware that different Calvinists have differing ways of explaining their views. I agree with Dr. Jerry Walls that many Calvinists slip back and forth into compatibilism and libertarianism as it suits them (sometimes without even realizing it). But as noted numerous times I’m most often referring to the mainstream scholarly view of “compatibilism” which Phil Johnson (President of Grace to You with MacArthur) referenced at monergism.com.

        May I also suggest you read the article on the 5 reasons the accusation of misrepresentation will never cease in this discussion?


      9. Leighton, thanks for your response. I have listened to all your podcasts and will continue to listen. Your views are very challenging.

        You may be aware of the different views of Calvinists but you only regard the view that plays into your particular apologetic. It seems that whenever a friendly Calvinist what’s to explain something in a different way then you expect you rush back to Phil Johnson’s Determinism explanation on monergism.com. Well guess what, Phil Johnson isn’t the sole spokesmen for Calvinism. And I don’t agree with his explanation. Phil Johnson, like some other Calvinists, don’t understand Compatibilism or its implications. Hey, I’m a Baptist, I don’t agree with Calvin on everything!

        You decry Calvinists for only arguing against the foreseen faith/prevenient grace Arminian view and ignoring the corporate election view, but then you go and do the same thing!

        As for Jerry Walls, his arguments are so fraught with invective, sarcasm, contradiction, straw man argumentation and shallow thinking that I can no longer listen to him. At least Roger Olson is consistent.

        The linchpin of your argument is explaining that Calvinist, whether they want to admit it or not, are Determinists. The major fault in your apologetic is your assumption that contra-causal libertarian free-will is completely coherent.

        Tell you what, I’ll read the article on the 5 Reasons if you will read this article:

        Even though I disagree with you I appreciate your views. Calvinists and Arminians are bothers and sisters in Christ!

      10. Mike,

        Thanks for listening and for your feedback.

        I think you likely heard me say at least a dozen times that there are various kinds of Calvinists and you must have heard me point out that there are “higher and lower” forms. I think I make that point pretty regularly. Now, I also believe the system at any “height” is incorrect because I don’t believe a right biblical hermenutic supports ANY Calvinistic rendering of the text. Thus I’m dealing with the system as a whole as being in error. I do believe the higher Calvinistic believers are more consistent within their system so I do press the lower (inconsistent) Calvinists on those inconsistencies. (I do so not bc I am unaware they hold to another view, but bc I believe there view to be in error AND inconsistent within the claims of the whole systematic…why wouldn’t I point that out?)

        Keep in mind that before starting my podcast most of my conversations in real life were with these “lower forms” of Calvinism, not the James White’s or Phil Johnson types. Honestly, finding the higher (Arthur Pink) types was refreshing because they were claiming out rightly what I had been accusing ALL Calvinists of having to maintain to remain consistent logically and hermenutically within their systems interpretation. This takes too much time and effort to fully demonstrate here but in that article you referenced I saw these inconsistencies in just about every paragraph.

        For instance, when you resist temptation you give God full credit for granting you the grace to resist that temptation, right? And when you fail to resist temptation and sin you take full blame, right? So, in the latter scenario when you sinned would you say God chose not to grant you sufficient grace to resist that temptation?

      11. Thank you Mike for pointing out the things we agree on. I am sorry I gave you the impression that what you were saying was incorrect. I meant to just imply we were looking at nature differently.

        Your main question is whether someone can choose against the nature that they have developed. My illustration, which indicated that some outside persuasion may be necessary for such a free choice and change of nature, I think we both can agree on also. Blessings!

      12. Brian, yes it looks like we agree on the definition of nature and character. But I really wish I could get a simple answer to my question. I think you may think that I’m trying to trick you into saying something you don’t believe. I would have rather ease into this but let me just try and lay it all out for you.

        As human beings our nature and character develops over time and throughout our life. We learn and grow but, hopefully, as we get older we form some consistent character traits and a cohesive nature. For the most part people can see who we are. We can be relied on. Those closet to us can know us. But we are human so nothing is absolutely unchangeable. But this does not describe God. God doesn’t learn and grow over time–God is timeless. His character traits and nature is fixed. He is eternally who He is.

        Take a look at the Euthyphro Dilemma. If free-will demands an opposite response than the Arminian is left without a response to Euthyphro. If free-will is more than just choice and demands an opposite response, i.e. to love or hate, to sin or not to sin, than God does not have free-will because God can not do the opposite of truth. God can not lie. God, unlike free-will man, can not sin.

      13. Mike, I have answered your question! It just appears you will not accept that I did. I guess it might be because my answer does not agree with your view of free-will. Are you discussing these things with me because you think my nature can change and I can choose the opposite of what I was professing to you? 🙂

        On another subject you have revealed that may be more in line with what you really want to talk about (i.e. God’s nature) there is not a verse in Scripture that clearly says His nature is timeless. In fact Ps 90:2 defines a linear view of eternity in God’s nature. Though immutability is clearly taught, and certainly encompasses His character, the incarnation event was an awesome change in God’s nature and obvious added to His experiential knowledge, though not to His understanding (Ps 147:5).

        I agree with you that God’s free will is limited by His nature, but it still exists. And man’s free-will has limits, but it still exists. The Scripture does not present an omnipotent free-will for God or man. God cannot sin, and man cannot save himself or even start a search for salvation without God’s grace. I hope this helps.

      14. You answered my question? Okay…I guess I’m just used to a simple yes or no with an explanation. As for me not accepting your answer because I don’t agree with it, well…perhaps…but that can go both ways. You accused me of not giving you examples when I gave you three. I guess you just didn’t like my examples.

        Hey, I’m happy if you don’t agree with me then at least we can have a discussion, but round-about and indirect answers just confuse me. Sorry, I guess I’m just a little slow. Oh, and I appreciate your humour but it demonstrates a lack of understanding to what I’m trying to get at. Didn’t I already agree with you that our natures can change?

        I think the problem is is your reading some kind of Calvinist subtext into everything I say rather than just dealing with what I am actually saying.

        I don’t want to really discuss the timelessness of God but I am in agreement with this response to the question: http://www.gotquestions.org/God-time.html

        Here’s what you wrote:
        “I agree with you that God’s free will is limited by His nature, but it still exists. And man’s free-will has limits, but it still exists. The Scripture does not present an omnipotent free-will for God or man. God cannot sin, and man cannot save himself or even start a search for salvation without God’s grace. I hope this helps.” YES, this helps! This is direct and clear. Thank you. And as a bonus we both agree with it. Now, I encourage you to really think about this.

        This limited free-will is the free-will that Calvinists espouse and it directly contradicts contra-causal libertarian free-will.

        (And I don’t know how familiar you are with the Euthyphro Dilemma but take a look at it. The Christian response points out the false dilemma and explains that “the good” is part of God’s nature. If true free-will demands the opposite option is always available than God must have the ability to sin though He chooses not to. But if this is true than this voids the Christian response to the Euthyphro Dilemma.)

  6. Brian, yes it looks like we agree on the definition of nature and character. But I really wish I could get a simple answer to my question. I think you may think that I’m trying to trick you into saying something you don’t believe. I would have rather ease into this but let me just try and lay it all out for you.

    As human beings our nature and character develops over time and throughout our life. We learn and grow but, hopefully, as we get older we form some consistent character traits and a cohesive nature. For the most part people can see who we are. We can be relied on. Those closet to us can know us. But we are human so nothing is absolutely unchangeable. But this does not describe God. God doesn’t learn and grow over time–God is timeless. His character traits and nature is fixed. He is eternally who He is.

    Take a look at the Euthyphro Dilemma. If free-will demands an opposite response than the Arminian is left without a response to Euthyphro. If free-will is more than just choice and demands an opposite response, i.e. to love or hate, to sin or not to sin, than God does not have free-will because God can not do the opposite of truth. God can not lie. God, unlike free-will man, can not sin.

    1. Hi Mike, I am entering this post here, though out of order a little, yet a part of the same conversation, because it may offer a better tie-in for future readers.

      I am enjoying our conversation, and for you taking your time to interact and to try to understand. Your original question – “So free will allows us to make choices against our natures? In other words, regardless of our specific natures we always have the ability to do otherwise?” The answer I was trying to portray is yes, though in most cases there has to be outside persuasion to help a more settled disposition have a possible free choice in the opposite direction by making it seem worth pursuing.

      As for your examples, I saw your statements about God’s and Satan’s nature before I asked for a specific example. I should have clarified that I meant one that dealt with the human nature. I missed any third one given earlier, though I saw your comment about Dahmer given later.

      You also asked – “Didn’t I already agree with you that our natures can change?” Yes! Thanks.

      You have to forgive me if I am “reading some kind of Calvinist subtext into” what you say. This is the topic of this website. So if you have any other main topic that you are motivated to discuss, but haven’t revealed, please let me know. The fact you don’t want to discuss “the timelessness of God” is curious, since it concerns the nature of God that you had been pointing to it, and you were the one that mentioned “the timelessness of God”.

      I am glad we agree a lot about “limited free-will.” I do see some major differences between my view of what Scripture’s teach about these limits and what the Calvinists espouse, though there are some similarities. And I do espouse that contra-causal free-will does exist, though not in all the same ways that those believing in libertarian free-will do.

      I am familiar with the Euthyphro Dilemma and I do agree with you that it is a “false dilemma”. I don’t believe that “true free-will demands the opposite option is always available”, but I do believe that God will grant a few the opportunities of response-ability to choose freely for or against (or at least towards) the offer of His saving grace. I hope this helps.

      1. Brian, it is hard sometimes to respond to everything in a post, stay on point and be relatively brief. Let me try to respond to you as I read your last response.

        First, thanks for being patient. Okay, so you believe that free-will allows us to choose against our individual natures or characters (the persuasion aspect is not relevant to what I am trying to get at). (The third example I gave was the “blunt” example–it wasn’t a particularly good one and I was trying to be humours). So this is the crux of the problem. If God can choose against His nature than there is no response to the Euthyphro Dilemma.

        I realize this is a Arminian Calvinist bebate blog so I guess it is understandable that you would interpret what I’m saying from an assumed Calvinist perspective. So I really shouldn’t take you to task for that. But really, I’m trying hard to be objective with what I am saying while trying to make my point.

        I don’t want to discuss the timelessness of God because it will take us into a long discussion in another direction. I want to talk about free-will.

        I think that the two pillars of this Arminian Calvinist Debate have to do with the assumption that contra-causal libertarian free-will is completely coherent and that Calvinists are hard determinists. And with you I want to explore this free-will assumption.

        I’m trying to track with you but I need a little more explanation on your last comment. Specifically, “God will grant a few.” It would help if we used an extreme example as an illustration. So, is what you are saying is that God gives everyone equal ability and free-will to choose, against their nature, whether to choose God or reject God, i.e. to sin or not to sin? Or that God will only grant a “few” the opportunity of response-ability to choose freely to sin or not to sin?

      2. Hi Mike, Sorry for not proof reading my last paragraph more closely. I meant to say “God will grant a few opportunities (cf. Job 33:14-30) to everyone (except perhaps infants who die and imbeciles) to have the response-ability to choose freely for or against (or at least towards) the offer of salvation.” So to answer your question – “So, is what you are saying is that God gives everyone equal ability and free-will to choose, against their nature, whether to choose God or reject God, i.e. to sin or not to sin? Yes, but for some it may be only a few times, so that the opportunities are not equal but yet sufficient.

        I still don’t like the phrase – “against their nature.” For though God cannot choose against His nature, He can make free choices between various good expressions of His nature. And by His persuasion by grace, He does bring man’s nature, at least a few times before regeneration, to have the ability to choose for or against His saving grace. And, after regeneration, I believe man’s nature is free to choose for or against God’s sanctifying grace, though God will bring gracious discipline that will make it harder, but not impossible, to reject that sanctifying work.

      3. Okay, well that’s makes more sense now. So then respond to my assertion that your view has no response to Euthyphro. And one other question. I have heard from many libertarian free-will Arminians that love is not possible without free-will. The example given is usually between a husband and wife. Love must always be chosen. Would you agree? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/love-doesnt-kidnap-why-i-believe-in-free-will-over-predestination/

      4. I am not sure why you feel my “view has no response to Euthyphro.” I said I agreed with you that his was a false dilemma, for God’s goodness is part of His nature. Just because I believe there can be more than one expression of that goodness, or that in goodness He can provide the opportunity for man to choose against Him, does not give credence to Euthyphro, in my view.

        As for love must always be chosen… I do believe agape love is an act of the will involving the choice to sacrifice. But that does not mean the choice to love, or not to love, is necessarily a choice between good and evil in every circumstance. The choice for God not to love His enemies, would not be a sin, but His choice to love them is grace.

        I take a look at the site you listed and get back to you, but probably not today. 🙂

      5. Hmmm, interesting that you don’t see the Euthyphro problem. The reason it is a false dilemma is because it presupposes only two options. The response is that “the good and just” is part of God’s nature, part of His character, His essence. The good and just is neither outside of Him or simply a label for what ever He wills be it good or evil. The response is only valid if God in His nature is incapable of choosing evil and sin.

        So follow the logic: God’s free-will is such that He can not do evil but He gives man a different kind of free-will, that which can do evil. So God gives man something He is incapable of Himself.

        As for “love must always be chosen,” when does a mother choose to love her infant, and when does the infant choose to love it’s mother?

        Hey, no rush on the responses.

      6. Hey Mike, I agree… no rush on the responses! But are you reading my responses? 🙂 I still don’t see where my response was tied to Euthyphro. I agreed with your view of a false dilemma, and that good is part of God’s nature. I even agree that God gave man free-will to choose evil (against God’s will). But did you catch my premise that God’s free will does exist because there are multiple choices of good things for Him! It would be another false dilemma, in my view, to say that God’s nature (goodness) could only either create what happened (including Adam’s sinning) or just not create. Could you comment on that?

        The mother chooses to love her infant as soon as she finds out she’s pregnant and determines which sacrifices she is willing to make on behalf of that infant. Perhaps she had already made some mental choices before even getting pregnant, but for that specific infant, love didn’t begin until the infant began.

        The infant doesn’t love until it gets old enough to choose to sacrifice to serve the Mother in some way, without expecting anything in return.

      7. Well I think we’re at an impasse here, Brian. I hit you with my big ones and you deflected them. I’m afraid that you are so committed to the idea of the coherence of free-will that you can’t entertain any illogic. Hey, you’re not alone–there are many scholars committed to free-will (check out the book I recommend below).

        And before you accuse me of the same let me say that I do see the illogic in determinism, but I also see the obvious illogic in free-will. So for me that means I look for a middle ground. And what is the middle ground? Compatiblism, as problematic as that is. For me, I would rather struggle with the complexities of compatibliism than try to convince myself that contra-causal free-will makes sense–especially when by simply thinking beyond the surface-level that I can see it does not. To believe that people’s nature and will are not irrevocably effected by a myriad of experiences both physical and psychological, not to mention hereditarial, is beyond me.

        You really think that the mother and child make a conscious decision to love each other? Wow.

        Ultimately I’m committed to compatibilsm because it is biblical. I know the examples I will refer you to can be explained away but I see these explanations as really forced. Check out: What is compatibilism? http://www.gotquestions.org/compatibilism.html

        I recommend that you take a look at this book sometime. It’s a massive tome but it will demonstrate that this free-will thing is not so simple. http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Handbook-Free-Will-Handbooks-ebook/dp/B00BFZRGIS/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=

        Also, and we really didn’t discuss this, but I see the Calvinist Arminian debate more as a disagreement in terms. Calvinists say that God uses means to accomplish His will and Arminians say that sometimes God will over ride free-will to accomplish His will.

        It was great conversing with you. Take care.

      8. Thanks Mike for the conversation. But sure what I was deflecting our where I was presenting a logical fallacy. You would have to agree that God had freewill at least when He chose between creating or not creating. If He had it then, why not now?

        And maybe our definitions of love differ, but the choice of sacrificial love is certainly reasonable, for pregnancy doesn’t naturally cause that love in the mother, or we wouldn’t have all these abortions.

        All the best in your freewill walk with our Savior. 🙂 If you want to keep the conversation going, what do you think of the term freewill used in the OT for offerings (eg. Ex 35:29), and the observation of freewill made by Paul in the situation in 1Cor 7:37, as well as the expression in 1Cor 12:11 that affirms that God is still making choices in the present (present tense)?

        Man’s philosophical reasoning is fun, but the clear implications of inerrant Scriptures can not be allowed to be undermined by man’s philosophy. I hope this helps.

      9. Brian, sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I’m not sure we are going to get anywhere but I’m will to continue the conversation a little further.

        The problem with this debate is the misunderstandings on both sides. In fact, I personally believe that most of what both sides believe are similar but they are saying them in different ways.

        Now, how do I take the verses you reference? Well, first you should understand that Calvinists have an explanation for every verse in the Bible–especially those that seem to argue against their position–just as Arminians do. When we offer our proof texts to one another there is an expectation that the other side will see things from our point of view, but this rarely happens. And what usually happens is that both sides talk past each other. I want to try as much as I can to avoid this.

        In answering your questions about these verses let me give you an example of what I think makes the answers that I will offer difficult for you to accept. When a Calvinist ask an Arminian the philosophical free-will question of why a particular choice was made the Arminian responds with an ingenious but frustrating answer. The response is simply: You can’t ask that question! And the reason behind this response is quite logical. The question assumes cause-and-effect or simple determinism. The problem with this answer is that it is purely philosophical and it ignores how we as humans think and conduct ourselves on a day-to-day bases.

        So, there are a couple of ways that I could respond to these verses. I could interpret them through a certain type of Calvinist lens which would get us both no where. But I could also respond with: Calvinists believe in free-will, so I have nothing to argue about with these verses–that to gets us no where. I could say: You can’t ask me about these verses because you are assuming a certain definition of free-well which you are imposing on the text. All these answers are legitimate but they get us no where. So how do we solve the problem?

        Well, the way I see it is the overarching problem with this debate, as I have mentioned before, is “definitional.” What is Determinism? What is Free-Will? Leighton labels all Calvinists as Hard Determinists and unfortunately some Calvinists agree with this definition. And if that is the foundation of your argument than it is easy to dismantle your opponent. The other pillar of Leighton’s argument is a confidence that contra-causal free-will is completely rational, coherent and understandable.

        Let me admit that I am not answering your questions directly at this point. If you want me to answer them I will but I think we need to deal with these definitions first. So lets start with contra-causal free-will. What does that mean to you. Can you explain it to me?

      10. Hi Mike, Don’t worry about time taken in between replies, or even if you feel led not to reply. The conversation is there hopefully to be a source of encouragement! You are free to indulge (without being caused) as you may determine! 🙂

        So that’s my idea of contra-causal free-will! Though there may be limits to it and outside influences upon it (secondary causes if you like) the final choice is from the individual who is “free” to be the actual “cause” of any choice made between opposing options presented to him. He is “response-able” to make the choice and ultimately “responsible” for it. This of course does not mean he cannot be forced by outside causes to do things against his will (his desires or his plans). But even in those circumstances he maintains contra-causal free-will for what he thinks and chooses to believe among options of thoughts and beliefs he retains. I hope this helps.

      11. Ok, this is helpful. But let’s explore this. First you say “without being caused” which is the definition contra-causal, that is “no” cause. And if something has no cause wouldn’t you label that random? Do you believe in chance?

        Then you go on to say “secondary causes” and “actual cause.” So is there a cause, which would contradict “no” cause or is there no cause?

        Then you specify choice “between opposing options.” Now if you look back at our conversation we’ve already gone over this. Are you saying that free choice must be between opposing options? To do evil or good, to sin or not?

        I’m not sure I fully understood your definition of “responsible” or “response-able.” Are you saying that if he is unable to respond or forced to respond then he is not responsible or free? If he is forced to act against what he believes then he retains his internal freedom? So he must be conscious of both opposing options to be responsible regardless of his actions?

        Now because you have used the word “cause” I feel that it is legitimate to ask if there are causes that form our thoughts and beliefs? If so wouldn’t the the term contra-causal–meaning no cause–be a misnomer?

      12. Hi Mike! I’m willing to freely jettison the term contra-causal if you wish me to, though you are not forcing me, just influencing me! 🙂

        I was using the term contra-causal to indicate only contra external causes as determinative. Everything, except the existence of God, has a cause, even our choices, but I was excluding self-caused choices (free will) from the term contra-causal. Sloppy, I guess, but I am also excluding external influences that cause external responses, like forcing someone to swallow something by holding them firmly, shoving it in their mouth, and holding their nose! The internal will is still free to reject what is happening.

        So if you want me to drop the term, contra-causal or change it to contra-external-causal freewill, fine. How about my verses now? 🙂

        And remember, I define freewill not only between a good and an evil choice but also when exercised between choices of good and between choices of evil.

      13. Brain, I don’t think you are really taking the time to think things through. We are going to get no where if we are not clear and precise with our terms.

        You can’t just get rid of contra-causal because you don’t like its implications. First of all, Leighton use the term constantly and depends on it as a pillar of his argument.

        Second, if we go down this road of redefining or jettisoning our terms whenever they don’t suit us then we are going to continue to spin our wheels. You can’t have it both ways. Leighton demands a very specific definition of Determinism and only credits those Calvinists that espouse that definition (look at how he treated Tim Keller). When Calvinists uses terms like God restrains evil or permits evil Leighton calls them on it. Are you going to let me get away with that?

        Contra-causal is not specific to external causes. But explain to me what exactly self-caused choices are? Do they spring forth randomly out of the either? It would really help if you could go through my questions one by one and answer them clearly rather then giving me some general hand waving. Once again, if I do the same thing to your questions you’re not going to like it.

        So you can’t understand that there are situations where people have been mentally and psychologically indoctrinated and deceived since birth and throughout their lives to the point where they are unable to make a so called unfettered and rational free-choice? And of course if this “is” possible, these are extreme cases and it is perfectly clear who is effected and who is perfectly free?

        Tell you what, I’m going to answer your questions the way you answer mine. Instead of going through them one by one and really examining the issue I’m going to give you one big general easy answer. Here it is: You are probably not aware of this but Calvinists believe in free-will so I have no problems with any of these verses. There you go, happy?

      14. Good Morning Mike! I am happy with your responses, in that you are taking your time to try to understand what I am saying. I am a little sad that I seem to be frustrating you with the way I answer, and I assure you, I am not trying to play games with you, though I do like to add levity at times. I hope you don’t feel they are sarcastic barbs to make you feel belittled. They are my way of trying to keep discussions in these disputable matters (Rom 14:1) from seeming “too” important.

        You asked 10 questions in your penultimate response. I tried to answer the one that I felt was the main one you were driving at, that was my definition of contra-causal freedom. I gave what I thought was the normative understanding of that term, though I guess my use of the word “external” was a little misleading. I only meant external from the will, leaving it free as a conscious decision making entity that weighs between thoughts and emotions. Yes it can be influenced over time, and sometimes hardened into being unable for an “unfettered and rational free-choice” as a result of its own free choices made previously and the free choices of others upon it. I do believe God can and does often freely softens such hardness to be enabled for free choices once again.

        But any self-caused choice is what I believe is the normal definition of free-will, so if you want contra-causal to exclude self-caused to, then I won’t use the term since I believe the Bible teaches free-will. What is your definition of contra-causal? And is there an authority that agrees with your definition?

        To answer your other questions – I think it is a false disjunctive syllogism to propose either cause or randomness, if free-will exists. And this leads back to God having free-will to choose to create or not create (a free choice between two good things). Once you allow for that uncaused choice, the possibilities become endless, even God choosing to allow for some randomness (knowing all the possibilities, of course) as long as that randomness is bounded by His nature. He could also predetermine all His future choices and man’s future choices (even the free ones – Molinism) before even starting creation. But the Scriptures indicate that though He was able to do such, He didn’t.

        Chance is a funny word! Of course we believe man can participate in “chance” activities, like rolling dice. And God, sharing His image, which includes a will that can make free choices, is in a sense is participating in so-called “chance” activities (cf. 1Sam 6:9, Ecc 9:11, Lk 10:31), though there is always a limit to all those random possibilities, like the dots on the dice, and nothing is possible outside His full knowledge of all possible outcomes. But, equally the Scriptures’ normal reading is against all choices, divine and human having been all predetermined before creation.

        Free choice can be between opposing options, but not all opposing options are between good and evil. To do something or not do that thing can both be good (Rom 14:1f, eating and abstaining, honor one day and not honoring one day, marriage or singleness, creating or not creating). I have yet to hear you concede this aspect of free-will which I have repeatedly made in our conversation, though maybe you have, and I just missed it. You seem to think free-will only exists if it is a choice between good and evil.

        It must be logically true that if there is total inability for accepting the gift of righteousness from conception, there can be no “responsibility” for rejecting the offer of the gift of righteousness. This is especially true if, as many reformed theologians believe, the soul is created pure at conception and then imputed with guilt and inability in the will, never to be enabled to be “response-able” to accept and reject an offer of saving grace. How these theologians logically maintain man’s moral culpability for such a divinely caused rejection is indeed a “mystery”.

        Well, I have tried to be more thorough in answering all your questions. If I have missed one, let me know. I truly would enjoy our conversation more if we were discussing specific Scriptures that seem to teach free-will or determinism. Defining our terms is important, so that we are on the same page. So I wait to hear how you define contra-causal free-will, and why you believe it is impossible for it to exist in God or man. I hope this helps.

      15. Brian, thank you for this response. There’s a lot here but now I can more clearly see your thought process. And I do appreciate your humour–I don’t take it as a barb.

        You shouldn’t assume there is a normative understanding of contra-causal or libertarian freedom beyond the specific definitions of the words. Just Google free-will and you will be faced with a myriad of definitions. And, in fact, this is the crux of my argument. There really is no absolute definition, even between those Libertarians or Traditionalists that ascribe to it.

        Your explanation of “external” is very fuzzy. And it is the same type of argument used when it is pointed out that there are certain biblical determinate actions which God enacts. The response is: Yes sometimes God imposes His will over the will of man. But then in another place it will be stated that God does not violate man’s will and love is not possible if man’s will is directed or overpowered. Well, which is it? I guess you would say that if an individual is incapable over time of making a free choice because of the imposition of another than God will at some point reset that person’s will so that they can make a rational decision. I find this a convenient but inconsistent solution. It is like the “hardening” explanation: God hardens only those who first harden themselves but the hardening is never permanent and is easily counteracted by free-will. So one wonders what purpose God’s hardening serves?

        My definition of contra-causal is the dictionary definition. As for the philosophical definition, as I have said, that varies between individual libertarian philosophers. For some it is the ability to do otherwise, for others it is non-coercive choice and for some it is simply the ability to make choices.

        Sorry but I think you need to re-read over your paragraph about “false disjunctive syllogism.” It’s just too packed with problems for me to get into it at this point. If you really want me to comment on it I will but it will take some time for me to unravel it. But I will say that it is a good illustration of the fact that free-will is a complicated issue.

        Yes, I concede that choices don’t have to be between opposites in the sense of good and evil. That is why I brought up the fact that God can not sin. The point is is that your libertarian free-will demands opposing alternatives to be real free-will.

        Sorry but any discussion of lapsarianism, infra or supra or whatever, doesn’t really interest me.

        You’ve made a number unsupported scriptural assumptions regarding predetermination. You say the Bible teaches free-will, well that’s what we are debating. Besides I agree that the Bible contains free-will. But the fact that there are a plethora of verses in the Bible that ask persons to make a choice does not prove an Arminian interpretation of free-will. I think it would help if I actually answered the biblical questions you previously asked me.

        Your questions demonstrate the fact that we are talking past each other. The Free-Will Offering in Ex. 35:29 and other places simply refer to an offering that is not mandatory. As a theocracy Israel’s sacrifices are compulsory. Free-will offerings were those that were voluntarily given apart from those that were specifically commanded by God. The funny thing here is that in the entire Bible were the term “free-will” is actually used all that it really means is “optional.”

        In 1 Cor. 7:37 the verse makes it plain that choice can be between to opposing but non-sinful options.

        1 Cor. 12:11 is about the free-will of God. My point from the beginning is that God’s free-will is choice that is free from the ability to do an evil or sinful otherwise. God can not choose against His nature. If man’s nature is corrupted and can only choose that which is unpleasing to God, as the scriptures say, it is still free-will and man is responsible for his choices.

        These question demonstrate that you don’t understand what I am getting at. Calvinism’s definition of free-will is free choice within the bounds or ability of one’s own nature. This is the free-will that God possesses and is the response to the Euthyphro Dilemma. Arminian free-will rejects this definition. It demands that man have the innate free ability to accept God or reject God–to sin or not to sin. If man is only able to sin, as the scriptures stipulate, than he does not have Arminian or Traditionalist free-will.

        I don’t no if you ascribe to this but to most Arminian philosophers the Free-Will Theodicy is considered “the” apologetic to the problem of evil. What is your option? Are there in fact any Theodicies in the the Bible? Can you show me the Free-Will Theodicy in the Bible?

      16. Good morning Mike! You do ask a lot of questions. 🙂 I asked you one, and you said – “the dictionary definition.” You also didn’t want to discuss the application of our topic to the fundamental question of salvation. You do have a little trouble being more forth coming in responses, in my view, though it seems to me you want me to provide more elaboration on what you think is important. I did appreciate greatly your interaction with the Scripture texts I had asked about.

        So to your questions. Man is confirmed in disobedience, in agreement with his nature from Adam when he reaches the point where his conscience is confronted by God’s law and he disobeys it. Adam’s original nature was given to him by God and had contra-causal freewill to obey or disobey God’s declarative will. That nature has never fundamentally changed to this extent, for it was never, and will be never, able to earn a righteous standing before God. Such a standing has to be graciously given. It did fundamentally change when Adam sinned, to the extent that it developed a propensity (inevitability) for sin, which was passed on to his offspring. It fundamentally changes again when through regeneration it is confirmed in a righteous standing before God, plus infused with the righteous life of Christ which can freely live out, though with the ability still to sin. It will fundamentally change again, we believe, when the flesh is removed from the resurrected body, when that is granted.

        Though each soul has a propensity for sin, and God allows it to fulfill that disobedience after reaching a moment of accountability to the law, His plan was always to provide mercy, based on the redemptive payment of His Son, by offering enablement to that soul to freely accept (but not irresistibly) the opportunity of repentance and acceptance of the mercy. He will break through what ever hardness has been developed, if necessary. If they reject the offers of His mercy, that they were enabled to receive, He may chose to irrevocably harden that soul, and use it as an instrument of unrighteousness, to have mercy on a multitude of others and to give them an opportunity for repentance and faith. I can list Scripture references for each of these premises if you like, but I am assuming you know that relevant passages that I am pointing to.

        Unsaved men, like Cornelius, and saved men, like me, have a relative freedom according to our nature to choose between good things to do and evil things to do. His had not the indwelling Spirit. Mine still has the flesh. The good things we both did/do were/are never meritoriously good for God’s needed salvation, and the evil things were/are all paid for by the blood of Jesus. Though the flesh ruled in Cornelius, he was able to respond to the Spirit’s drawing to send for Peter who would bring him the words of salvation. If he had rejected that word, his condemnation, dying in his sins, would be for his rejecting of sin’s only payment!

        Though not ruled by the flesh any longer, I am still able to reject the Spirit’s leading in my life, but not without facing divine forceful (against my will, if you will) correction. Like the soils in the parable of the sower, that freedom to be influenced by God’s gracious word and to be able to produce divine fruit can be hampered, for in each of our hearts there is a will that freely interacts with things that can harden it, keep it shallow, or fill it with choking thorns.

        So I do not agree with your statement that Scriptures teach that “man’s will is corrupted and can only choose that which is unpleasing to God” except in the redemptive sense, for Cornelius as an unsaved man did temporarily good things of his own free will, though they had no meritorious value for the salvation of his soul. And Scriptures do not “stipulate” that man is “only able to sin”, though again the temporally good things that he does in obedience to God’s law, and his responses to God’s gracious drawing, are not meritorious.

        A biblical theodicy is easily developed, though not totally satisfying from Ezekiel 28:15, 17?; Romans 5:12, 7:9; and James 1:13-15. I hope this helps.

        God’s free will to choose between various good things in agreement with His nature only makes us wonder why choosing to create another free will being with the potential for terrible evil could be viewed as a good thing! But looking at Jesus as His universal love for those who freely displayed that evil, does aid us in the trust that His choosing to make temporal evil possible did not violate His good nature.

      17. Brain, well it looks like we have come to another impasse and I’m afraid this will have to be the final one for me. I don’t do much blogging and this conversation reconfirms my avoidance.

        There’s just too much talking past one another, avoiding hard questions and irrelevant rabbit trails. It took us numerous posts to just agree on the meaning of the word “nature,” and I think you still really don’t get it. It’s funny because in Leighton’s podcast on Divine Hardening with Dr. Wagner the term is used liberally with out question.

        The first time I was going to give up was when I asked you: “When does a mother choose to love her infant, and when does the infant choose to love it’s mother?” You actually answered that love is simply a cold, logical, rational decision made at a specific point in time—and you used the depravity of adoration as proof. I know that you don’t believe this—you said it just to win the point. You’er in good company, Leighton did the same thing when he critiqued Tim Keller’s sermon: Does God Control Everything. He missed the point Keller was trying to make about the mystery of love. And he reduced love to an itemized list of attributes, which is the opposite to God’s love in the scripture. He does this just to win the argument.

        Brain, you are correct, I want to talk about the topic I started this blog post about and not go off on some rabbit trail. But, aside from your salvation question which though somewhat confusing I generally agree with, I have respond to all of your inquires—I wish it had been reciprocated.

        In this last post you go on for a long time about something I generally agree with, accept for a few suppositional terms—we already established that contra-causal has very little meaning. Of course, your conclusion does not flow out of your argument. Here are some verses that support man’s corrupted will: http://www.openbible.info/topics/total_depravity

        I know it is time to end this discussion based on your response to my theodicy question. That question was a bit of a test, and I’m sorry to say you failed. There are really only two full-fledged (completely developed) theodicies in the bible: the books of Job and Habakkuk.
        But because they don’t support free-will you rush to verses that have little to do with the problem of evil and try to infer and impose a purely philosophical theory and ignore the direct and clear books that deal directly with the subject. You don’t even mention Job! How can you talk about theodicy and not mention Job?! The scripture verses you reference help to prove Total Depravity not libertarian free-will.

        My argument from the beginning of this conversation has been to point out that the pillars of Leighton’s disagreement with Calvinism is an assumption that contra-causal free-will is completely rational and understandable, and that Calvinists’ are Hard Determinists. I’ve demonstrated that free-will is a mystery. I wish we could have discussed determinism.

        Here are some of my favourite free-will verses for you to ponder:
        Job 42.2, Proverbs 16.4, 16.9, 19.21, Isaiah 10:5-19, Jeremiah 13.23, Daniel 2.21, 4.35, Matthew 10.29-31, Ephesians 1.11

        Thanks for the conversion, Brain. I’m going to refrain from blogging for a while. I think face to face conversions are much more productive.

      18. Thanks Mike for your attempt to help me understand. Again, I am sorry, and somewhat baffled, that you have judged my responses the way you have. I will look up the passages you listed, and can assure you that I believe every word they say. I have no problem with God exercising meticulous control, though I do not think, based on Scripture, He does it all the time, but according to His plan often freely interacts with man who was created in His image, within a plethora of good free choices He has to make and allowing man to freely respond for or against His will.

        We have discussed determinism! I am surprised that you do not think we have.

        You are welcome for the “conversion” and I do have a “Brain”. But I know you meant conversation and Brian! 🙂 I guess the Lord just had it predetermined you would make those editorial mistakes! 🙂

        I hope we will meet face to face sometime! I agree, it tends to be the better way of encouraging one another in the truth! Blessings, my new friend.

    2. Leighton, I really do appreciate what you are saying, that is why I continue to listen to your podcast. And I understand that the higher forms of Calvinists really seem to espouse a Hard Determinism that I would agree is inconsistent.

      As for the article I recommend, I’m surprised that you dismiss it so easily—especially the section on corporate election.
      (http://sbcopenforum.com/2012/08/29/beyond-traditionalism-reclaiming-southern-baptist-soteriology/) I found it very logical and consistent, but I guess if you have “Calvinists are Hard Determinists” always in the back of your mind then everything a Calvinist says will seem inconstant.

      Let me back up a bit and try to briefly explain where I’m coming from. As an Arminian I found Calvinism inconsistent and contradictory primarily for its view of determinism, just as you have found—though, at the time I didn’t really know that the problem was determinism per-say. One of the main issues that lead me to question my Arminianism was the Problem of Evil. My studies lead me to the Free-Will Theodicy which on the surface makes sense and is held by the majority of prominent modern Christian philosophers (Plantinga, Swinburne, van Inwagen, WLC, Copan, etc.). And ironically it was Augustine who first devised this theodicy.

      Now, there are really only two full-fledged (completely developed) theodicies in the bible: the books of Job and Habakkuk. But the Free-Will Theodicy is not what we find in these two book that deal directly with the problem of evil. If this is such an important doctrine why is it absent from the scriptures? Instead, the answer we get is God’s mysterious sovereignty.

      We can only really understand free-will on one level—a very cursory simple level—and the deeper we go the more mysterious and paradoxical it gets. And, in fact, this is the same for determinism. 

      As I have said, I can certainly appreciate the perplexing paradoxical and difficult logical scenarios. But have you ever pondered the paradoxes of quantum mechanics or wave-particles? Or the paradox of time travel? Because there are paradoxes does that mean that time travel is false? Not according to a number of Einsteinian philosophers and physicists. And for every contradiction or paradox you can come up with for compatibilistic-determinism an equal number can be given for libertarian free-will.

      So I’m with you when you point out the inconsistencies of hard determinist Calvinists but there is no solace in libertarian or contra-causal free-will.

      1. Mike,
        Thanks for the thorough reply. Sorry, I’m not able to spend more time right now engaging with you…maybe we can talk by phone one day soon?

        1. I know with the brief responses in formats like this it may appear I’m “dismissing it so easily” but you will just have to believe me when I tell you that it was anything but ‘easy’ for me to leave Calvinistic theology. I’ve studied this more than most but still its possible I have blind spots. I’m alway open to learn.

        2. You wrote, “But the Free-Will Theodicy is not what we find in these two book that deal directly with the problem of evil. If this is such an important doctrine why is it absent from the scriptures? Instead, the answer we get is God’s mysterious sovereignty.” But I think this begs the question because from our perspective FW is a result of God’s sovereignty, not a contradiction to it (see famous Tozer quote I know you’ve heard if you listen). We both appeal to the mystery of God’s sovereignty…we just come to different conclusions regarding what that entails.

        3. It appears we agree with regard to the mystery/paradox of free will. And I agree that you can likely list as many difficulties with LFW as I can for Compatibilistic determinism, and so the deciding factor comes back to the hermeneutics and resulting interpretations of our various proof texts. I find the three pillars of Calvinism (John 6, Eph. 1 and Romans 8-9) to be wholly unconvincing as proofs for Calvinistic soteriology. If you remove those three passages then Calvinism really has no leg to stand on IMO. Even if Romans 9 alone is understood from the non-Cal perspective, I think the entire Cal system stumbles beyond recovery. All the other philosophically paradoxal problems are secondary at that point.

        I do find “solace” in mystery…the mystery that is afforded by the text itself after due diligence in the hermeneutical process. Again, I may be wrong…I likely am on some points…but what I see from a holistic view of scripture is decisively not in support of the Calvinistic conclusions.

      2. Leighton, thank you again for taking the time to respond. Perhaps you should consider doing a program on theodicy. I often hear about the “plain reading of the text” from Arminians. I really think you have to overlay a specific free-will supposition upon the plain reading to get a free-will theodicy from Job.

        I would agree with you about the importance of the three pillars of Calvinism you mentioned though, for me personally, it was a number of Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 10:5-19 and Proverbs 16.4, 16.9, 19.21 that finally convinced me of compatibilisim.

        I just listened to the program you did on Matt Slick and I thought you made a strong case. This is a very good example where Calvinist theology goes too far and looses perspective. I appreciate your views and find them challenging and I will continue to listen to the podcast.

        It might be good to talk on the phone at some point. You can get in touch with me at mranieri@rogers.com.

  7. I just realized I spelt your name as Brain rather than Brian. I guess subconsciously I think you won the argument. But would that mean that my contra-causal free-will was compromised? 😉

  8. Mike, There is a free-will theodicy from Job in the sense that Satan was given freedom to express his will of torment on Job within the limits God established and Job and his friends were free to respond to that trial, also within the limits of their nature and the grace available to freely use.

    Isaiah 10:5-19, God can certainly “force” a godless kingdom to do His will, even when they had no intention of doing so. But within that outcome, there still remains a multitude of free choices that God leaves unforced. Call that compatibilism, if you will, but it is compatibilism within a system where not everything was already predetermined, only some things.

    Proverbs 16.4, Again, there is no necessity in this verse for the view of meticulous forcing of human history in every detail according to a predetermined plan that covers all things. But this verse does guarantee that God will work with His free choices and man’s to bring about certain ends.

    16.9, This verse too does not prove the predetermination of all things before creation. In fact it establishes that God does allow man to make plans, but that He is ultimately responsible through direct or permissive choices as to which steps are taken.

    19.21 This verse is similar to 16.9, and also does not support a meticulous “purpose” of God that He is guaranteeing to work out according to His nature.

    1. Brain,

      Concerning Isaiah: yes I do call it compatiblism. Compatibilism is the middle ground between God’s imposing His will and man’s free choices.

      Conceding the Proverbs: Again, perfect examples of compatiblism. I don’t agree with the meticulous forcing of human history but if you read these as stuff happens and then God has to make it work then I think you are in denial to the plain meaning.

      1. Thanks Mike for the reply. I can’t see where I am in denial. I hope the Lord will reveal it to me if I am. Thanks for trying yourself. I would say that it seems to me that you are in denial, but I could be wrong. Each of the Proverbs verses we discussed has man’s actions preceding God’s, so I do not see how divine predetermination (though perhaps true) can be proven from these verses. I think that is a theological assumption brought to those verses.

      2. Brian,

        One of us is in denial and one us is bringing a theological assumption to the text. It could be me. I don’t know, I’m trying to be objective to the plain reading of the text. To me, when I read these verses with no preconceived ideas I get: man making choices which miraculously fit into God’s predetermined plan. How we make sense of this is philosophically beyond scripture. I think Compatiblism comes the closest.

  9. “The lost man’s inability to seek God does not equal the inability to respond to a God who is actively seeking to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)” I don’t see this verse saying that but besides that, this is an excellent article! 🙂

  10. Why did I choose Christ? Either because God created me a robot and programmed me to, or because of what Scripture says….Psa 119:130  The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. ….Josh 24:15… choose this day whom you will serve.

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