5 Reasons for the Accusation of Misrepresentation when Debating Calvinism

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After reading countless articles on soteriology for my doctoral studies and listening to every online debate over Calvinism that I can get my hands on in preparation for my upcoming debate, I have come to this very firm conviction:

It is impossible to rightly represent a view with which you disagree to the satisfaction of every opponent.

misrepresentation

Now, to be fair, this happens both ways. I have witnessed well intending Calvinists attempt to fairly restate their opponents view only to be met with ridicule as well (though it does seem to be more rare from my biased vantage point).  Being a former Calvinist (I know, I know,  IMPOSSIBLE!) and having many close friends and family members who affirm the doctrines of TULIP, this issue has really bothered me. I want to be fair to my Calvinistic friends and I know many of them want to be fair to me and my views.  So, why does that seem to be so difficult?

I’ve come up with 5 reasons why I believe the dreaded ACCUSATION OF MISREPRESENTATION will never cease as long as this discussion continues:

1) NOT EVERYONE IS CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH:

There are some Calvinists who simply disagree with Edwin Palmer’s quote above, as they should.  There are moderate Calvinists, high Calvinists, ultra Calvinists and hyper Calvinists (the last of which most Calvinists would disavow completely). There are some who affirm God’s provisional atonement for all people and God’s sincere desire for every individual to repent and believe; but others who do not.  There are some who affirm God’s genuine love for every individual, while others only describe his feelings toward the non-elect as wrath-filled hatred.

Those familiar with the lapsarian controversy, which has to do with the logical order of God’s eternal decrees of salvation, realize the complexities of rightly defining the various perspectives of Calvinism.  This disagreement is ultimately centered around the “achilles heel” of the Calvinistic worldview: DIVINE CULPABILITY. How does God escape being held responsible for the origin and ultimate cause of all moral evil?  Some Calvinists attempt to explain the logical order of the divine decree in such a way as to minimize His guilt for the fall and the origin of evil, while “higher” forms of Calvinism (typically called “Supralapsarianism”) simply embrace the troubling concept of double predestination and refer to “lesser” views of Calvinism as being “inconsistent.”

One scholar accurately observed:

Calvinists are seriously divided among themselves and always have been. There is Supralapsarianism vs. Sublapsarianism vs. Infralapsarianism. ‘The Supralapsarians hold that God decreed the fall of Adam; the Sublapsarians, that he permitted it’ (McClintock & Strong). The Calvinists at the Synod of Dort were divided on many issues, including lapsarianism. The Swiss Calvinists who wrote the Helvetic Consensus Formula in 1675 were in conflict with the French Calvinists of the School of Saumur. There are Strict Calvinists and Moderate Calvinists, Hyper and non-Hyper (differing especially on reprobation and the extent of the atonement and whether God loves all men), 5 pointers, 4 pointers, 3 pointers, 2 pointers. In America Calvinists were divided into Old School and the New School. As we have seen, the Calvinists of England were divided in the 19th century.

Whenever, therefore, one tries to state TULIP theology and then refute it, there are Calvinists who will argue with you that you are misrepresenting Calvinism. It is not so much that you are misrepresenting Calvinism, though. You might be quoting directly from various Calvinists or even from Calvin himself. The problem is that you are misrepresenting THEIR Calvinism! There are Calvin Calvinists and Thomas Fuller Calvinists and Arthur W. Pink Calvinists and Presbyterian Calvinists and Baptist Calvinists and many other sorts of Calvinists. Many Calvinists have never read Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion for themselves. They are merely following someone who follows someone who allegedly follows Calvin (who, by his own admission, followed Augustine). (LINK)

Again, to be fair, not all non-Calvinists agree on every point of doctrine either. One of my greatest frustrations in these discussions is overcoming the common belief that every non-Calvinist is a classical foresight faith Arminian, or that we just deny the doctrines of election and predestination all together.

I had a pastor on social media write me a message the other day which in part read, “You just don’t like the doctrine of predestination because you would rather worship your idol of free will.” He has no idea that I dislike the term “free will” and absolutely LOVE the doctrine of predestination.  And I really cannot blame him given that the last non-Calvinist he engaged may have loved the term free will, denied any concept of predestination, and quoted John 3:16 over and over in anger (BTW, immaturity like that only served to galvanize me in my Calvinism when I was younger).

The point is that we are not all cut from the same cloth.  Everyone does not have both feet firmly planted in one monolithic camp with a single statement of faith and spokesperson.  If we desire to have profitable dialogue we must seek to understand the individual we are engaging rightly.  We must avoid labeling them and dismissing them while assuming we fully understand their views simply because we have read a book from someone who appears to be from the same camp.

2) DEFINING THE TERMS: 

This issue is closely related to the first. Many people even in the same camp use different terms that often carry different connotations and implications.  For instance, when I say “responsible” I actually think it means that someone is “able to respond” (silly me). Yet, when some use the word “responsible” they simply hear “justly punishable even if one is unable to respond.”

This issue especially comes to light when the discussion of God’s eternal decree surfaces.  Does God author sin? Did He create the desire to do evil? Does He ordain it or decree it, or both? Does He permissively decree it or actively decree it? Does God passively allow moral evil by “bare permission” and “simple foreknowledge” or does He actively plan it by “meticulous determinism?”  Which verb is appropriate when talking about our perfectly Holy and Righteous Creator and the origin of moral evil?

It is easy to see how such conversations can become confounding very quickly. One brother says, “God has decreed sin,” while meaning “God permissively allows contra-causally free moral creatures to choose to sin autonomously from God’s divine Holy will.”  All the while, another brother, using the exact phrase, may mean, “God intended the morally evil choices by planning and meticulously determining the very desires and circumstances of mankind so that they would certainly choose as He ordained for His Holy purposes.” Neither brother desires to impugn God’s Holiness or His Sovereignty yet no doubt neither will escape the accusation of failing in their attempt.

This is one reason we need to be patient with each other and seek to understand the meaning of our opponent’s terms in a discussion.  Also, we have to realize that our terms may carry an unintended connotation in the mind of our audience.  We need to define our terms clearly and openly ask questions in order to really understand each other before engaging further in dialogue.

3) CORRECT BUT NOT PALATABLE: 

Imagine the reaction if a sitting President made one of the two following comments:

  • “Authorities subdued the suspect, and through interrogation, thwarted the plot of the terrorist organization.”

Versus:

  • “Jack ran down the black 18 year old teenager as he left the high school parking lot, slammed him to the ground, broke his knee caps with a bat, put a gun in his mouth and threatened to pull the trigger until he gave up information leading to a line of three other suspects who had similar painful experiences.  Finally, Jack extracted the plot of the terrorists, which could have been found out a number of other ways.”

Both statements may be completely true but the latter contains the kind of details that many of us rather not hear about. Now consider these two theological statements:

  • “To display His abundant providential power, God has sovereignly brought all things to pass in accordance with His Holy plan.”
  • “To show off how powerful He is, God meticulously determined all the heinous desires and subsequent evil actions of every creature who has ever lived in such a way that they could not have done otherwise, including the rapes of children, the holocaust, slavery, torture, and every single evil thought, deed or inclination because that was what He planned and ultimately desired to come to pass.”

One of the statements may be much more palatable and easier to affirm, but both are stating the same basic meaning.  Applied theology means just that.  It is when our theological rhetoric is taken out of the class room and applied in the real world.  Some people cannot stomach it, while others revel in its destain as a badge of honor, almost as if the more offensive their views are to others the more likely they are to be correct.

Recently, in one of my interactions with Dr. James White, we were discussing the implication of compatibilism with regard to the claims of homosexuals who believe they are born with same sex desire and cannot choose to do otherwise (see HERE).

In my attempt to make a case for why compatibilistic theories only validate the homosexual’s belief, I copied and pasted the views of a compatibilistic scholar who described how God providentially brings to pass the “voluntary” choices of man through “meticulous determinism.”  I simply plugged the choices of those with same sex desires in where the compatibilistic scholar spoke generically of all human choices. I copied the description virtually verbatim with the intentional effort of avoiding the all too common “accusation of misrepresentation.” Dr. White, apparently not recognizing the article’s reference, spent an entire hour critiquing me for misrepresenting compatibilism, even titling his broadcast, “Leighton Flowers Reduces Compatibilism to a Shadow of Itself.”

What I believe Dr. White was reacting to was the true implications of his systematic as it related practically to a real world moral evil. I challenge anyone to offer a specific rebuttal of any statement made in my original article that is not consistent within the compatiblistic framework as presented by their own scholar. Dr. White was not reacting to the accuracy of what was written as much as he was to the reality of the implications when applied specifically to homosexual desires and choices. In short, he rejected what was written not because it was inaccurate (after all it was his own scholar’s description), he rejected it because it wasn’t said in a palatable manner.  It wasn’t “politically correct” enough.

Face it, it is easier to say and swallow the phrase, “God providentially brings all things to pass to manifest His glory,” than, “God meticulously determines the homosexuals desires and acts of sodomy to show off His power.”

By the way, I’m very much aware of the difficulty of some teachings we all may affirm, such as the concept of hell.  As long as the scriptures afford the critique we must be willing to live within that tension.  If someone restates our belief in an less desirable way (i.e. “So you believe God is going to burn people for eternity because some dude thousands of years ago ate a piece of fruit?”) we should unpack their concern and answer it biblically, not deny the truth in order to avoid the tension.

4) RATIONALIZATIONS AND LOGICAL IMPLICATIONS:

“The doctrine of Total Depravity – when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing – may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.” –CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pg. 29

Was CS Lewis attempting to directly accuse all Calvinists of worshipping the devil? I seriously doubt it. It is more likely that he was attempting to draw out the logical implications of the Calvinistic claims regarding their teachings on total inability. John Wesley makes a similar claim in a sermon about double predestination in which he teaches Calvinism makes God out to be worse than the devil, because the devil would not deceptively pretend to want all to be saved (link). Yet, we know that Wesley was close friends with Calvinistic brothers (like Whitfield) and won the respect of many great Calvinistic believers (see note at the end of this article). How can Calvinists get along with someone who implies their doctrine leads to devil worship? I think those who have studied these issues at length better understand how this is possible.

Dr. Roger Olson is someone I’ve very much grown to admire over the years. He has adopted the best approach I have heard in dealing with the tension of this particular issue. In a recorded discussion with his friend Michael Horton over these difficult issues (HERE), he carefully explains how he realizes Calvinists do not view God as “monstrous,” but that he would have to if he were to adopt the claims of Calvinism. In other words, Olson acknowledges that Calvinists do not believe God is morally evil or “devil-like” in any way shape or form, but explains why he would have to draw that awful conclusion if he were to adopt Calvinism and remain consistent with its claims.

This issue has also come up with regard to the need for evangelism if Calvinism is true.  I am not aware of any mainstream Calvinistic pastors or scholars who downplay the biblical call to actively participate in evangelism and missions. Even when I was a Calvinist I served as an evangelist and do not recall ever feeling that such work was unnecessary due to my doctrinal views.  However, the logical implication that God will certainly save all his elect regardless of our level of involvement could be taken to seed and lead some to believe that adopting such a view would harm evangelistic fervor (maybe for some it would as it has historically at times).  The fact is that good mainstream Calvinists actively stand against this logical implication and continually remind those who affirm their doctrines not to take these views to that unbiblical conclusion.

This likewise goes both ways.  For instance, some may feel our affirmation of omniscience would lead to similar fatalistic views as that held to by deterministic believers. We deny that divine omniscience undermines man’s responsibility (contra-causal choice) in any way, but the logical implications of a set future based on God’s foreknowledge of all things prior to creation lead some to rationalize that our view has no real distinction from that affirmed by compatibilistic determinists.  Some have adopted Open Theism in order to deal with this logical implication, while the rest of us are fine living with the tension of the infinite mystery afforded by the scriptures on this issue.  Every system has its mysteries, whether some are willing to acknowledge it or not:

“How it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance…. I daily so meditate on these mysteries of his judgments that curiosity to know anything more does not attract me.” – John Calvin

I’m aware of how the “you too fallacy” is often employed in these discussions in order to avoid the system’s tension, which I address the the last part of THIS ARTICLE.

5) NEFARIOUS MOTIVATIONS: 

When you disagree with someone about something so intimate and personal as the biblical teaching of grace and salvation it is easy to allow yourself to start believing there must be something seriously wrong with them.

How can they not understand this teaching!?

What is wrong with them?  

Don’t they believe what the Bible says?!

Are they just stupid or do they like ignoring the scripture!?

They must be evil!

Is it possible that two well meaning, God fearing, bible believing, followers of Christ honestly disagree about the meaning of a passage?  I’d challenge anyone to find me two scholars who agree on every single text or point of doctrine in the scriptures. I seriously doubt it can be done, yet can the two not find enough common ground on which to unite?

We are different.  We each have unique perspectives, emotions, personalities and experiences that affect how we understand a passage.  Does that mean we should adopt full blown ecumenicalism and just pretend everyone is right who is sincere?  I do not believe that is a good balance either.  Iron is made to sharpen iron and that happens through clashing of ideas, thoughts and opinions in healthy, edifying ways.  We do not have to assume our opponent is a devil in order to confront their perspective effectively.  In fact, it is typically much more effective when you engage one as a friend, not a foe, in matters such as biblical doctrine.

Let us learn a lesson from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, as we close this article:

You know, brethren, that there is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer, I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But, my dear friends, far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none within her walls but Calvinistic Christians, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him, that while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself, I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitfield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one of whom the world was not worthy. I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ into their hearts, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist out of heaven.

– C. H. Spurgeon, The Man With the Measuring Line

For more on the need for UNITY please read THIS ARTICLE.

215 thoughts on “5 Reasons for the Accusation of Misrepresentation when Debating Calvinism

  1. I am really glad Leighton that you addressed this issue of misrepresentation! Is there a link where you discuss more in detail what, who, or how the Lord brought you to the place to face not only Calvinism’s misrepresentations of opposing views, that maybe you used even feeling they weren’t misrepresentations, but also convinced you that what you thought were misrepresentations of Calvinism were indeed logical and biblical criticisms you could not counter?

    I know you mention influences from Tozer and Lewis and your own personal study that led you to five new conclusions that clearly countered Calvinism in an irrefutable way for you, but were their other specific turning points like people, events, books, key verses in Scripture? I am so grateful for your work on this issue! And how important do your rate you debate training that forced you to build strong arguments for opposing views, and would you think there is benefit in getting others to practice this technique? Would this be a legitimate step in the application of obedience to the biblical command to test all things?

  2. I think the main reason is #3. They hate the way their beliefs sound when plainly stated.

    I was debating Rich Pierce (A & O Ministries President) once, and I kept asking him: “If compatibilist determinism is true, then aren’t the gays 100% correct in saying God made them gay?” His reaction to the question really fascinated me. He quoted scriptures that he believed supported determinism (which, obviously meant he believed the answer to my question was “yes”). But he couldn’t bring himself to actually SAY “Yes,” LOL! It was the craziest thing! Quote verses that you think support the idea that God made gays the way they are, but can’t actually say the words: “Yes, it’s true. God DID make the gays that way.”

    So I started asking him: “You obviously believe the answer to my question is yes; that’s why you’re quoting me verses that you think support that view… So why can’t you just come right out and say it? After all, if you have God’s Truth, why be ashamed to say it plainly?” But he wouldn’t do it, no matter how I pressed him.

    Same thing happened in a debate group. I asked a Calvinist if she honestly believes God would call ALL men to repentance with no intention of granting ALL the ability to respond? She quoted verses and philosophical rhetoric that she believed supported that view, but she refused to simply say: “Yes, I believe God calls all to repentance with no intention of granting all the ability to respond, and yet I also believe God is 100% just in condemning people who reject the gospel.”

    The fact that not even THEY can state their beliefs plainly is very telling. It tells us that, deep down, even they realize their beliefs are morally senseless. But, rather than abandon their emotional commitment to Calvinism, they prefer instead to live in denial of it’s moral implications.

    1. Amyra,
      Nice to see that the “big bad wolf” has not discouraged you from posting at Soteriology 101.

      Thanks for sharing that anecdote. You make a good point here. Homosexuals like to claim that “God made me this way.” If He did, then there is nothing to say to them about repentance from this sinful lifestyle. Non-calvinists will deny this claim and assert that God did not make them this way, they have chosen this lifestyle and so they must choose to repent of it. Actually, regarding this claim that “God made me this way”. If consistent calvinist (CC) is true, then this claim is true in regards to all of us. If all is predestined and God is the puppet master and we are all puppets playing preassinged roles in God completely predecided script, then whatever we are and whatever we do, “God made us this way.”

      I only disagree with your statement that the reason CC’s are not forthright and more clear in stating heir beliefs is not because they deep down know them to be “morally senseless”. Rather, I think as with many of us when you know that being forthright will get you in trouble or that others will reject your claims if you are “straight up”: you will be more subtle in how you express yourself. I believe CC’s know that if they were direct and forthright in presenting what they really believe, many, most would reject their claims outright as false. So to avoid this immediae rejection they develop how shall we say, more subtle ways of presenting their false theology and false beliefs. Incidentally, over at SBC Today a friend of mine, Ronnie Rodgers is doing a series on exactly this: how CC’s will engage in semantic game playing, obfuscation, misleading ways of presenting their ideas. Check it out Amyra you will find very good examples in the thread itself of CC’s engaging in these things. This is yet another reason for rejecting calvinism as the false theology that it is.

  3. Good points, Robert.

    The bottom line is dishonesty, plain and simple. That’s what surprised me the most about engaging with Calvinists. See, I debated against Islam for years and learned to expect dishonesty from Muslims. Dishonesty made perfect sense coming from them, since the Qur’an and the Hadiths teach that lying is a virtue if it serves the cause of Islam.

    But, when I began to dispute with Calvinists, I NEVER expected to be confronted with routine (and sometimes even shameless) dishonesty. Never for one second did I expect that from Christians; I was totally blind-sided and shocked!

    I also never expected to encounter so much misogyny. When some Calvinist men can’t win the argument, they’ll berate you for being a woman. They’ll say things like: “Well, you’re a woman so you need to be silent,” or “you’re just a babbling woman,” or “Eve was evil and led Adam astray, so women are obviously weak on doctrine.”

    Now, I’m a Bible-believing woman. I got no problem with submitting to a husband, or with allowing men to lead the church as God commanded. But, these are flagrant abuses of scripture, and for what? To get the upper hand in a discussion about soteriology when all else fails?

    Incidentally, sometimes I wonder why they even bother to start a conversation with me in the first place, since I’m a woman and “should be silent”? In other words, they’re always happy to initiate a dialogue, even though I’m a female. It’s not til they realize the discussion isn’t going their way that, suddenly, I need to “be silent.” And, suddenly, what Paul said about keeping order during worship service applies to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, LOL! 😛

    You men who dispute with Calvinists probably never see that side of it, but it exists. And it’s ugly.

    Now, I know not all Calvinists are like that (and I hope most aren’t like that). But, any time you see rampant dishonesty and men despising women, you know there’s a demonic spirit at work.

    Anyway, thanks for the reference, brother. I’ll check out that article series 🙂

    1. Amyra,

      Sad and yet not surpised by your testimony here. You seem like a knowledgeable woman and so rather than being denigrated, men should appreciate your knowledge and commitment to knowing scripture. You allude to your experience when witnessing to Muslims I have experienced the same thing (i.e. this mentality that lying is justified to protect and promote what they see as the truth). This makes it very difficult to witness to them when they do this. I agree when professing christians engage in this same or similar behavior, that it is really sad and disappointing. You expect more from believers then when they act no different than unbelievers, it can be frustrating. Regarding them putting you in your place once the discusson is not going their way, by appealing to the “be silent in the church” passages that is really low. Talk about proof texting. Your post provides yet more evidence against the false calvinistic system. Just curious what got you interested in showing the falsity of the calvinistic system? From your past experience it also seems that your prior experience with Muslims also prepared you to deal with calvinists. Sadly their theologies have some parallels that I am sure you are aware of.

  4. Robert,

    What got me interested in refuting Calvinism is basically the same thing that got me refuting Islam. When I really contemplated “The Doctrines,” I felt compelled to fight against them. Calvinism is a slanderous demonic attack against God’s nature and character. If taken to its logical ends, it could destroy the Church’s credibility and witness to the lost (as it has for those Westboro Calvies).

    I know Calvinists don’t see it that way. But, like Roger Olson says, when I follow Calvinism to its logical conclusions I have to see it that way. Calvinism makes no meaningful distinction between the characters of God and Satan. In fact, it makes Satan morally superior, because he has no free will and God is the One causing, decreeing, determining all his evil desires and actions. Now who would dream up a “doctrine” that absolves Satan and makes God the guilty One?

    On the flip side, if Calvinism is true, angels and people are nothing more than props God uses to worship and adore Himself, which is just too creepy and sad to be true! :-/

    And, yes, there are similarities between the Islamic god and the Calvinist view of God:

    They are both deceivers. Allah boasts of being the “greatest” of “al-makireena” (the deceivers), which means he must be Satan, since the Bible says Satan is “the father of lies.” But if Calvinism is true, then who is REALLY the father of lies? And what do we call someone who says he wants one thing, but “secretly desires” (or even decrees) the exact opposite?

    They are both partial. Allah doesn’t love the infidels and neither does the Calvinist version of God. God may send rain on the unrighteous. But, “what profit is it for a man to gain the world and lose his soul?” If God really loves all, then He must want what’s best for all, which is eternal fellowship with Himself. God says as much (2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:6, 1 John 2:2, John 3:16-17), but Calvinism would have us ignore or twist His words.

    They are both fatalistic. The Qur’an teaches Calvinism (Q9.51, Q54.49, Q76.29-30) as do the Hadiths. One hadith says allah decides before a person is born “whether he will be of the wretched or the blessed.” Thus, a person may be a devout Muslim his whole life, until “there is only a cubit between him a paradise,” but he’ll apostatize just before he dies, if that’s what allah decreed (Sahih al-Bukhari 6594). Reminds me of “the dreaded false hope” in Calvinism.

    Islam and Calvinism both present a shallow caricature of the True God. The Islamic god is powerful and wrathful. The Calvinist version of God is powerful, self-glorifying, and wrathful. You can’t really relate to either. You can’t really know or either. Neither can really be trusted. You can’t really much more than awe or dread for either.

  5. To push the Calvinist system even further, in Calvinism, shouldn’t we be celebrating evil? If man’s evil actions were all part of God’s plan and he receives glory from those evil actions, shouldn’t we be happy that those evil things happened? Imagine watching a doctor perform abortion after abortion in a clinic and then praising God for the death of those babies. Imagine standing at the gates of Auschwitz witnessing the death of millions of Jews and singing praises that God’s will was being accomplished in their death. Imagine observing a young child being raped and murdered and jumping for joy at the power of the almighty God! This is not the God that is revealed in the character of Jesus. This is a God, dare I say it, who would be unworthy of our praise and practically indistinguishable from the devil. Don’t let the Calvinist off the hook when asking the questions. Don’t let them do the typical Calvinistic tip-toe through the Tulip. Make them respond to the logical conclusions of their theology and while that may anger and frustrate them (James White), the seeds of doubt are being planted in their minds and of other who hear their response … or lack thereof.

  6. So, when Roger Olson says, “Arminians should not pray for God to save their friends and loved ones.” Is that the kind of non-Calvinist that you are?

    If not, how can you pray for God to save them? Isn’t that like praying for God to overpower their wills?

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/06/more-about-prayer-for-unsaved-loved-ones-and-friends/

    Regardless, of what anyone says I shall be glad to continue to pray for God to not merely knock politely at the door of men’s hearts, but to break them down. I care far more that my children go to Heaven with the door to the hearts broken of the hinges by their heavenly Father than that they have full control of opening the door all the while they endure His just judgment.

    1. So are you praying in hopes to change God’s mind about who he has already elected to save? All of us have a level of mystery in this.

      I am praying that my friend repents and turns to God because I know God will forgive them and save them because that is what his word promises us. I do not pray that God irresistibly saves a person because I don’t believe that is God’s will.

    2. “So, when Roger Olson says, “Arminians should not pray for God to save their friends and loved ones.” Is that the kind of non-Calvinist that you are?”

      Would you provide the context of that quote. I think you are being misleading with this.

      1. Roger Olsen writes:

        If someone prays for God to save their loved one, I’m not going to get all worked up about it and criticize them and tell them to stop it. But if they come and ask me about that kind of praying I will tell them what I believe about it.

        And what I believe about it is that it depends on what is intended. Normal language interpretation would seem to me to indicate that asking God to save someone, without any qualifications, is tantamount (whatever is intended) to asking God to do the impossible (from an Arminian perspective).

        So, if a person asks me about such praying I will lead off the discussion with “What do you intend for God to do?” If the person says “I am asking God to intervene in their life to force them to repent and believe” I will say “That’s not possible” and explain why. If the person says “I am asking God to bring circumstances into their life to show them their need of him…” I will say “Well, that’s not what I think those words mean, but okay, if that’s what you mean, God knows what you mean and so go ahead and pray that way.”

        Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/06/more-about-prayer-for-unsaved-loved-ones-and-friends/#ixzz3Xi4zW9G3

    3. Here is Roger’s follow up attempt to explain what he said (and he did say the above):

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/06/more-about-prayer-for-unsaved-loved-ones-and-friends/

      One part of his explanation is wrong. He says, “So, if a person asks me about such praying I will lead off the discussion with “What do you intend for God to do?” If the person says “I am asking God to intervene in their life to force them to repent and believe” I will say “That’s not possible” and explain why.”

      Problem is that’s not what Calvinists believe happens. Force them to repent and believe? That’s not Calvinism.

      1. I find Olson’s comments to be generally reasonable and not at all an absolute as the post I replied to seemed to indicate. That is why I asked for the context to shed a better light on the matter.

    4. Seth said, “Regardless, of what anyone says I shall be glad to continue to pray for God to not merely knock politely at the door of men’s hearts, but to break them down. I care far more that my children go to Heaven with the door to the hearts broken of the hinges by their heavenly Father…”

      Seth, Are you praying for God to break down every single individual’s heart? Does God break down every person’s heart? If not, is it because we resist God or that God did not choose that person to be saved so He didn’t “break down” his heart? If the latter, how can you pray for God to do something He doesn’t will to do, ie., save that person?

      1. Jeff writes, “..how can you pray for God to do something He doesn’t will to do, ie., save that person?”

        As no one, not even a Calvinist, knows whom God intends to save, the Calvinist is optimistic and assumes that God will save everyone he prays for. God has said, in very strong language, that he responds to the prayers of believers and Calvinists take advantage of that as much as possible.

  7. Great! So you want God to cause them to repent? Me too.

    Whatever names you want to call it, Olson won’t do that as he clearly wrote since he understands that to pray that way is to pray like a 5 pointer. May God give us many more people who pray like Calvinists even if they don’t preach like them yet.

    1. Hi Seth, I think you would agree that we are always to pray according to God’s desires and revealed plan. He desires all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1Tim 2:4) and He has planned for all to come to a place of repentance (2Pet 3:9). In fact He promises to enlighten, convict and draw everyone to that place (John 1:9, 16:7-8, 12:32). He does not cause the repentance or faith commitment in a person’s will, but He certainly causes the opportunity for it. And when we pray, more opportunities for repentance and faith results.

      If you know of a command or example where prayer to force someone to repent is made in the Scripture, I would certainly love to consider it.

  8. Amyra,
    I can appreciate much of what was said in Pastor Flowers article, because it is helpful to the discussion to make every effort to understand and represent each other’s views properly. I’m sorry if you have encountered Calvinists who have attacked you for presenting your views because you are a woman, but how does your rhetoric help to further the discussion at all? As a Calvinist, I have been called a heretic, demonic, and many names I won’t repeat here. I have been told that I worship a child rapist, and that I don’t know God. While it’s sad that this is coming from people who claim to be children of God, it has nothing to do with whether or not the views I’m presenting are true. It also has nothing to do with someone like Pastor Flowers or many other non-Calvinists who don’t resort to name calling and demonizing Calvinists to dismiss what they are actually presenting. Your comments about “routine (and sometimes even shameless) dishonesty”, “so much misogyny”, and “Calvinism is a slanderous demonic attack against God’s nature and character” are not helpful to the discussion. I would think that the misogynists are not at all representative of Calvinists as a whole. Do you really think that Calvinists are being dishonest because you disagree with them about the logical implications of Compatiblism? As for Calvinism being “a slanderous demonic attack against God’s nature and character”, really!?!

    You raised several points of criticism, but due to time and space I will only address the first one here. You said you think the main reason for accusations of misrepresentation is that Calvinists hate the way their beliefs sound when plainly stated, and you used the example of God making gay people gay. I think the problem is not that you stated the compatiblistic view plainly, but that you stated it simplistically in a way that sounds very misleading.

    When people who experience same sex attractions say, “God made me this way” they are jumping to a conclusion based on the fact that they experience same sex attraction. As a heterosexual male, I can’t understand how a man could be attracted to another man in that way. I don’t experience those desires at all, but it is obvious that they do. When they are told, “you just chose to be like that” that answer isn’t going to cut it. They didn’t just choose to experience those attractions (at least many of them didn’t). They experience desires that come naturally to them, and they reason along the lines of: If God made me and I naturally have these sexual desires, then God made me gay. They then go on to conclude that if God made me gay, then there isn’t anything wrong with me being gay. This reasoning ignores or results in rejecting God’s revelation in scripture of proper verses sinful sexual behavior as well as our natural sinful desires being results of the fall.

    As a compatiblist, I can acknowledge that they have a natural inclination toward the same sex, while still maintaining that their inclination is sinful. We all have natural sinful desires. I have often experienced sinful sexual desires. Before being married, I was naturally attracted to women in a sexual way. That doesn’t mean that because I found many women attractive that God made me to be a fornicator. After I put the wedding band on my wife’s finger and said “I do”, I didn’t magically quit seeing every other woman in the world as attractive. That doesn’t mean that because I still had those natural desires that God made me to be an adulterer. God has clearly revealed that just like homosexuality, fornication and adultery are sinful. That being the case, I can’t justify going out and being an adulterer by saying “it’s ok because God made me this way”, and someone who experiences same sex attractions can’t justify being gay by saying the same thing.

    I know you think there is a problem with my view because I believe that God eternally intended for certain individuals to have these desires and engage in these behaviors, but I also believe that God never did anything wrong or even made any move that was anything less than absolutely perfect. God created man good, yet mutably good. When God made man he was “very good”, as Genesis says, but he was not omniscient. Because man was not omniscient, he was mutable. He could take in new information (including false information), and draw new conclusions causing him to change from his original goodness. God not only made man very good, He gave man proper instructions with only one prohibition to not eat from one tree. God knew man would fall. God made the one prohibition knowing and intending for Adam to break it, but God’s actions were all good.

    We all agree that God knew of the fall before He ever created as well as every sin that every individual throughout history would ever commit due to their fallen desires resulting from the fall. Knowing this God still created the way He did. When someone fully knows the results of their action and knowingly performs that action, then they necessarily intended to bring about those results. This gets into much more than just homosexuality. This deals with all moral evil. I’ll answer the objection that this is “a slanderous demonic attack against God’s nature and character” by pointing to God’s nature and character. God is omniscient. He has perfect knowledge. That includes knowing Himself perfectly, knowing what a Being like Himself should ultimately accomplish, and knowing how to perfectly accomplish what He should. The fact that He knows these things makes it impossible for Him not to act in a way that does not work toward accomplishing what He knows should be accomplished in the most perfect way. He created a world in which sin occurs. He created a world with homosexuals. He created a world that had a Hitler, a Stalin, and a Jeffry Dohmer. He created this world with these people because a world without them would not be the world that was necessary in accomplishing His perfect purposes. I think any attempt to say that we live in a world where people are able to do evil that is not part of the necessary means to accomplish God’s perfect ends is an attack on the nature and character of God, because I don’t believe God would create a world in which any such unnecessary evil exists.

    So, all of God’s actions are good, and all of God’s intentions are pure for the purpose of bringing about what He knows to be His perfect purposes.

    As for the gay person, Paul made it clear in 1 Cor. that some in that church were once like that also. Homosexuality isn’t the unforgivable sin. Yes, God has determined everything from eternity, but we don’t know what He has determined. It’s true that He is the far removed primary cause of all things, but it’s also true that a person’s own desire is the immediate direct cause of what they choose to do. We can’t sit around saying, “well if I do this, it just shows that God eternally intended for me to do it” because the same would be shown to be the case if we didn’t do it. We don’t know what God has eternally determined, but we do know that if we want to please God we should obey His commands. So, the gay person is faced with the same question that we are all faced with: “do you want to please God more than you want to please yourself?” If the answer is no, then all we can do is proclaim the gospel, pray, and leave it to God. If the answer is truly yes, then we can disciple them and help them follow God.

    God bless you.

  9. Matt,

    How does reducing my sincere testimony to mere “rhetoric” help the discussion at all?

    You see, after you said that, I stopped reading. You obviously have ZERO respect for where I’m coming from, so I’m not interested in anything else you have to say.

    God bless.

  10. Amyra,

    I’m sorry you took my comments that way, but I don’t think you are looking at what our comments said very objectively. I think your views are wrong, but I think they come from good intentions. You have identified my views as “demonic”. I apologized for any Calvinists who made sexist comments to you, but pointed out that they were not at all representative of Calvinism as a whole. You presented them as an example of “so much misogyny”, and while stating that not all Calvinists are like that you added “and I hope most aren’t like that”. This gives the impression that if it isn’t the majority it is still a pretty common thing. You also accused Calvinists of dishonesty saying, “The bottom line is dishonesty, plain and simple. That’s what surprised me the most about engaging with Calvinists… I NEVER expected to be confronted with routine (and sometimes even shameless) dishonesty. Never for one second did I expect that from Christians”. I didn’t see any examples of dishonesty given, but it seemed to be an accusation based on Calvinists disagreeing with you about what you think are the logical implications of their beliefs or possibly the accuracy of what you think is a plain statement of their beliefs. I don’t see that as dishonest. I didn’t say that your entire testimony was “mere” rhetoric. I simply pointed out the rhetoric you used (giving examples) as unhelpful to the discussion.

    I went on to address what you wrote about the logical implications of Calvinism and what you view as “a plain statement” of what we believe as it relates to homosexuals. The fact that you’ve chosen to ignore all of that while diverting the discussion away from the issues to me having zero respect for where you’re coming from is very telling. BTW, it isn’t true that I have zero respect for where you’re coming from. I’m sincerely sorry If the initial paragraph of my first comment offended you. It was certainly not meant to be offensive. I don’t think you’re looking at it objectively, but if I’m the one who is being insensitive or not being objective I apologize. If you have a response to the vast majority of my first comment that dealt with the issues, please respond. Let’s not get diverted by this unrelated stuff.

    God bless you.

  11. Matt,

    Thanks for the apology.

    First, my experiences with misogynistic Calvinist men are MY experiences. Who are you to minimize MY experiences? I’m not exaggerating, and I never said most Calvinists are like that. I acknowledged that not all were like that and I said I HOPED most weren’t (that’s not the same as affirming that most definitely are). But, I said that because it DOES happen often. Again, that’s MY experience.

    Second, I didn’t “ignore” the rest of your first comment. I lost interest and stopped reading because of your attitude, lol. There is a difference. But, since you asked me to, I just went back and read it. And there’s nothing there that changes my opinion.

    The rest of your message reflects the very intellectual dishonesty that I’ve been talking about. You have to completely (and quite self-deceptively) suspend rational thought in order to avoid the logical conclusions (and moral implications) of your beliefs.

    It neither follows logically or Biblically that God can’t foreknow without predetermining. That’s a Calvinist assumption that has no basis in fact. It assumes things about God’s knowledge that no human being could possibly know (e.g. the mechanism which God “knows” things, how God operates in eternity). Calvinists don’t know how God’s knowledge works; I wish they’d stop pretending they do.

    Also, you mentioned that God let man fall. No. If your systematic is true, God “caused” man to fall. And God CAUSED gays to be gay. He’s the one who decided they would have these desires. They could not help but act upon what God decreed for them to desire. It’s dishonest to act like that isn’t the case. It’s also dishonest for a determinist to use the word “allow.” God doesn’t “allow” anything on compatibilist determinism. He “causes.”

    Incidentally, it’s also dishonest when Calvinists pretend they don’t know the moral difference between “causing” and “allowing.” They know the difference in daily life. They know the difference between a person committing a sin of their own volition vs. doing it because someone drugged them. A 4-year-old knows the difference between being punished for something his older brother made him do vs. being punished for something he did of his own determination. Our legal system recognizes the difference between causing a crime vs. failing to prevent a crime. But, when we’re speaking about God, Calvinists suddenly don’t know the difference.

    So, now I’ve heard you out. You don’t think Calvinists are dishonest in their attempts to absolve a god who causes the very sin He laments and condemns. You don’t think it’s dishonest to claim God decrees evil whilst denying He’s the author of sin. I must respectfully differ with you. I think it is dishonest.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    1. Amyra, Great job not letting Calvinists off the hook for their irrational compatibilist belief that God can both determine all things in an eternal decree but somehow remains beyond responsibility for of all the sin that man does that He Himself eternally decreed.

      “God is deemed omnipotent…because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel….[T]here is no random power, or agency, or motion in the creatures, who are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed…[T]he world is governed by God, not only because he maintains the order of nature appointed by him, but because he takes a special charge of every one of his works. It is true, indeed, that each species of created objects is moved by a secret instinct of nature, as if they obeyed the eternal command of God, and spontaneously followed the course which God at first appointed.”

      John Calvin, Institutes, 1.16.3 (4,6)

      1. Jeff writes, “Great job not letting Calvinists off the hook for their irrational compatibilist belief that God can both determine all things in an eternal decree but somehow remains beyond responsibility for of all the sin that man does that He Himself eternally decreed.”

        There is a little confusion here. No Calvinist says that God is not responsible for everything that happens (at least they shouldn’t). In the Scriptures God says that He is responsible – He opens and closes the womb, He makes one person rich and another poor, He makes peace and creates evil. God uses the evil that people conspire to do in accomplishing His plans – the life of Joseph being a good example. What God does not do is “cause” people to sin in order to effect His plans. In determining sin, God need only let people pursue their sinful desires and restrain them as is necessary to effect His plans – for example, He did not let Joseph’s brothers kill him but only sell him to the Midianite traders. God is responsible fully for all the sin that people do – but does not cause anyone to sin – and people sin only by God’s decree – people are not free to sin willy-nilly but only as god decides – thus Satan cannot do anything to Job that he desires but only as God has declared. This is another way to explain that which Calvin explains – a great citation in its own right.

  12. Amyra,

    I’ll start with your comments, “you mentioned that God let man fall. No. If your systematic is true, God “caused” man to fall. And God CAUSED gays to be gay” and “The rest of your message reflects the very intellectual dishonesty that I’ve been talking about”. I never used the word “let” or “allow” to describe the fall or any other sinful action that people commit. There is a real difference between God actively intervening to immediately cause something and allowing the things that He previously set in motion through good acts to play out in causal sequence. Both are equally determined by Him, both are causally traced to Him, but His action and involvement is different in each. However, I never used either term and have been as forthright and explicit about my beliefs as possible. Here is what I actually said about the fall and homosexuality:

    “We all agree that God knew of the fall before He ever created as well as every sin that every individual throughout history would ever commit due to their fallen desires resulting from the fall. Knowing this God still created the way He did. When someone fully knows the results of their action and knowingly performs that action, then they necessarily intended to bring about those results.”

    And “God knew man would fall. God made the one prohibition knowing and intending for Adam to break it, but God’s actions were all good.”

    And “I know you think there is a problem with my view because I believe that God eternally intended for certain individuals to have these desires and engage in these behaviors, but I also believe that God never did anything wrong or even made any move that was anything less than absolutely perfect.”

    After saying that I have to completely suspend rational thought, you say, “It neither follows logically or Biblically that God can’t foreknow without predetermining”. I would have to disagree. The Law of Causation demands it based on what scripture reveals about God. God’s knowledge is an eternal, immutable part of His very essence. The things that did not even exist cannot cause the thing that has always existed. God’s knowledge, like the rest of Him, is uncaused and simply exists in an immutable state before the sequences of time. It seems to me that any mysterious mechanism by which God knows things would have to play a causal role in God knowing, but there can be no cause that brings about what is eternal. In eternity past nothing existed but God, and everything that would exist would be brought about by God. So, the only possibility is that God knew Himself and what He would bring about through His creative acts and subsequent acts within His creation. The knowledge was eternal and uncaused. The actions of God proceeded from His knowledge of how He would act, and everything in all of His creation can be causally traced back to God and His knowledge.

    Trying to explain that type of stuff very briefly in this format isn’t easy, so please tell me if I need to clarify what I’m saying about that.

    You also accused Calvinists of being dishonest for pretending not to know the moral difference between causing and allowing, and then gave some analogies that don’t apply to anything in my comment or to the omniscient, omnipotent Creator of all that exists. If you reread the sixth paragraph of my original comment and the little two line paragraph following it, I explain why God is perfectly just in determining all the sinful acts in the world and would be less than perfect if He did not determine them. I would love for you to address that, and would be happy to clarify anything I may need to.

    Thanks for the interaction. God bless you.

    1. From John Hendryx’s site, Monergism, on compatibilism:

      “Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism), is the belief that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. In light of Scripture, human choices are believed to be exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THIS POSITION IS NO LESS DETERMINISTIC THAN HARD DETERMINISM – BE CLEAR THAT NEITHER SOFT NOR HARD DETERMINISM BELIEVES MAN HAS A FREE WILL.” (caps mine).

      1. Where John Hendryx’ says, “BE CLEAR THAT NEITHER SOFT NOR HARD DETERMINISM BELIEVES MAN HAS A FREE WILL,” does he have in mind libertarian free will. Those I have read who advocate a compatibilist view seem to allow for that limited free will where a person is ruled by his desires but is not coerced to make the choices he does, i.e., to sin.

        Hendryx writes, “desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism” which says little to me. I would have explained it as God restraining the evil that men seek to do so that the sin they do actually commit – effectively determined by God – is such that advances God’s plans. The temptation of Job is an example. Satan was constrained such that he could only do what God determined and no more. Balaam is another example, and he even recognized God’s restraint over his actions.

  13. Matt,

    I understand you have to continue to tell yourself that you’re not being dishonest. But the fact is, you are. You try and distance God’s “secret decree” from man’s sinful actions, and you can’t. There’s no getting around determinism. God decreed that people would sin. He put the sinful thoughts and desires in their hearts. HE chose that they’d sin. They had no choice. That’s compatibilism.

    Again, you pretend you understand God’s knowledge. You don’t. Logic doesn’t require anyone to accept the notion that God must predetermine in order to foreknow. And neither does scripture. You believe that because you’re a Calvinist. Not because you’re reading scripture. It’s nothing but vain reasoning masquerading as intellectualism.

    And, no, if God decreed the evil in men’s hearts, caused it, decided that it would be there, PUT it there, and it didn’t arise from man’s autonomous will, then God is the only sinner in the universe.

    You can keep claiming otherwise, but I ain’t buyin’ it. Sorry, lol 🙂

  14. Amyra,

    I think we have different definitions of dishonesty. If you’re saying that I’m somehow trying to hide what I believe instead of explain it forthrightly, then please point out where I’ve done that. I would be glad to make my views very clear.

    You say, “God decreed that people would sin”. I agree. No dishonesty there. I also explained how all of His actions were perfectly good, and His intentions were perfectly pure because the Being with perfect knowledge would necessarily create the world that would perfectly achieve His perfect purposes in the most perfect way. Apparently that world involves certain people with certain sinful desires committing certain sins. As I have explained before, if God didn’t determine that these evils, that are necessary in perfectly accomplishing His perfect ends, would take place then He would be guilty of not achieving the perfect purposes for His creation. So, yes He decreed that people would sin, but He never does anything but good and determining all actions within His creation is necessary for Him to achieve the perfect consummation for which everything was created.

    You go on to say, “He put the sinful thoughts and desires in their hearts. HE chose that they’d sin. They had no choice. That’s compatibilism.” That is incorrect. He did not put any sinful thoughts and desires in anyone’s heart. As I already explained, He created man “very good”, yet mutably good. He knew of the fall and all of the sin that would follow. He intended for it all to happen, but He never works in anyone’s heart in a way that puts evil desires there that weren’t there before. He may present them with external circumstances that result in them acting out the evil desires they already have, but to say that He puts sinful thoughts and desires in people’s hearts is inaccurate.

    As for Him choosing that people sin, I agree. However, saying that they had no choice and that’s compatibilism is not true at all. It’s not an either/or thing. He chooses and they choose. This is another thing that I already anticipated and explained in my original comment (last paragraph). It’s true that God is the far removed primary or first cause of all things, but it’s also true that we are the more immediate and direct cause of what we choose to do. God has revealed in His word what we should do, and the only question is whether we want to please God more than ourselves or ourselves more than God. You can protest about God having already determined it first, but we are still justly accountable. This is because we don’t know what God has determined, so no one can say they sinned for the purpose of fulfilling God’s decree. We can’t excuse ourselves by saying, “well, if I do this it will only go to show that God eternally intended for me to do it” because the opposite would be proven true if we didn’t do it. We are faced with making a decision, and we will do exactly what we want to do. So, God chose how to bring about everything in His creation through His good actions for good purposes exactly how He wanted to, and we also choose to bring about our own actions exactly how we want to.

    I know you hate the belief that God chose first and ultimately determined everything, but when it’s all put into perspective He is the One that everything else exists for. We were created by Him and for Him. Our very existence is to bring Him glory. He doesn’t exist for us, we exist for Him.

    You go on to say, “Again, you pretend you understand God’s knowledge. You don’t. Logic doesn’t require anyone to accept the notion that God must predetermine in order to foreknow.” This is a bare assertion. I believe I demonstrated that the Law of Causation does require anyone who is going to be consistent in their use of logic to accept this. You didn’t even attempt to refute anything I wrote.

    At the risk of over simplifying it I will try to state it again very quickly. The thing that is eternal cannot be caused by anything because nothing can precede it in order to bring it about. Before God’s first action, He knew exactly how He would create and every repercussion of His actions down to the orbit of every electron around every nucleus in every atom and beyond. Because nothing other than God existed in eternity past and because God is the Creator of everything, He knew everything that would exist outside of Himself as what He would bring about either directly or as the result of causal sequences initiated by His direct actions. You may want to throw in that He created man with libertarian, contra-causal, autonomous free will, but that in itself leads to either the claim that free will is the production of uncaused effects that are sometimes contrary to what we determine we want to do through our own thought process or that there is no direct link between any specific cause and its effect. I would be happy to explain that further if you are interested in engaging my view on that.

    I most likely won’t have time to make multiple responses tomorrow, but I hope you will address the content of what I have commented. I will continue the discussion as opportunity allows. God bless you.

  15. Matt,

    Still intellectually dishonest:

    “His intentions were perfectly pure because the Being with perfect knowledge would necessarily create the world that would perfectly achieve His perfect purposes in the most perfect way. Apparently that world involves certain people with certain sinful desires committing certain sins.”

    “He intended for it all to happen, but He never works in anyone’s heart in a way that puts evil desires there that weren’t there before. He may present them with external circumstances that result in them acting out the evil desires they already have, but to say that He puts sinful thoughts and desires in people’s hearts is inaccurate.”

    You CLAIM you believe God “decreed” everything, but then, in your explanation you describe it as if the only thing He had to do with evil is exhaustively “foreknowing” it. This is a lie, plain and simple. It’s the NON-Calvinist who only believes God only foreknows rather than creates and causes evil. The Calvinist believes God is the one who put the evil in the people’s heart. Even the compatibilist determinist believes that (as per Monergism.com). WHERE ELSE could the evil have possibly come from if man has no autonomous will? It came from GOD’S will, that’s where.

    And yet, you’re pretending this isn’t the case… Just like an atheist, you’re borrowing from my worldview to escape the moral implications of your own. Either that, or perhaps you just don’t understand the doctrines you espouse. Perhaps you’ve been deceived and you honestly believe Calvinism teaches that God only “foreknows” but doesn’t actually put the evil in people’s hearts.

    “I know you hate the belief that God chose first and ultimately determined everything, but when it’s all put into perspective He is the One that everything else exists for.”

    No, I hate the slanderous lie that God conjured up sodomy and bestiality in His own heart, put it into men’s minds and desires, and then punishes man for simply following the script. That’s what Calvinism is. You repeatedly saying otherwise is either evidence of your deceiving or being deceived. If the former, then I’d suggest you renounce Calvinism because you obviously can’t stomach it for what it REALLY is. If the latter, then I suggest you look further into Calvinism so you can understand it better.

    “I believe I demonstrated that the Law of Causation does require anyone who is going to be consistent in their use of logic to accept this. You didn’t even attempt to refute anything I wrote.”

    Causation is about cause and EFFECT. Since WHEN does mere knowledge (even foreknowledge) “cause” ANY effect by necessity? You’ve not established that, no one has. You merely assert it (repeatedly), and you expect to be taken seriously because you’re using big words. I’m sure you fantasize that you sound like an “intellectual,” but this is pure nonsense. Vain reasoning based on man-made philosophy that has ZERO basis in scripture.

    And it also touches on your denial of what Calvinism really is. In compatibilist determinism, God puts the evil desires in men’s hearts (the desires couldn’t come from anywhere else if man has no free will). Now THAT would be “causation.” And THAT would mean God is unholy. But you’re denying this. You’re claiming God’s knowledge is the only “causal” factor (thus making Him innocent), but knowledge doesn’t CAUSE anything. You’re very confused, sir.

    “You may want to throw in that He created man with libertarian, contra-causal, autonomous free will, but that in itself leads to either the claim that free will is the production of uncaused effects that are sometimes contrary to what we determine we want to do through our own thought process or that there is no direct link between any specific cause and its effect.”

    What? Did you just copy and paste that from somewhere or did you really write that? LOL!

    Are you saying you believe that if the actions of man’s free will aren’t predetermined by an external cause, then it must be “illogical” to believe man has free will? Cause if that’s what you’re saying, then I’m even less convinced you know what you’re talking about now then I ever was.

    Not only that, but if God is the external cause of the actions of man’s will, then God MUST be the one who put evil thoughts and desires in man’s heart… But you refuse to own that, remember?

  16. Amyra,

    I have continually stated my beliefs clearly, and you have continually misrepresented them. It’s funny but sad that this is in the comments section of an article about avoiding misrepresentation. I never claimed that the only thing God “had to do with evil is exhaustively “foreknowing” it”. I explained that God’s knowledge is the primary cause of all that exists other than God. I explained that God willed for evil to exist because evil is necessary in the perfect accomplishment of His perfect purposes. This means that God willed evil for good and His character is not tainted in the least for doing what was necessary to bring about the ultimate good. You have not addressed any of that at all.

    I have fully acknowledged that all sinful actions and the desires they spring from can ultimately be traced back to God, who determined them for the purpose of bringing about His ultimately good purposes in the perfect way. I have also explained the difference between direct intervention in a person’s heart where God puts a desire there and the intention that the desire will be there as the result of many long causal sequences that begin with God’s good actions. I can’t force you to acknowledge the difference, but it is a real difference. If you want to address the views of a Compatibilist you’re going to have to understand and present them correctly, otherwise you’re critiquing a straw man while the real views of compatibilism remain untouched.

    You say, “Causation is about cause and EFFECT. Since WHEN does mere knowledge (even foreknowledge) “cause” ANY effect by necessity?” I also explained this, but let me explain causation to you. As an analytic proposition the Law of Causation is an extension of the Law of Non-contradiction. By definition, causes are anything that bring about effects and effects are anything that is brought about by a preceding cause. Effects can be defined as any type of change whatsoever. Change in position (motion) is an effect and change in thought would also be an effect. Specific causes bring about specific effects. You unknowingly operate on the assumption of the truth of the Law of Causation all the time. You couldn’t function in life or continue living if you didn’t. By having this discussion you assume the truth of this. You know what you want to say in your head and have the intention of conveying a specific meaning to me. You believe that by acting on your knowledge you will be able to let me know what you want me to know through a causal sequence that involves hitting specific keys on your keyboard that form specific words that carry specific meanings. You know that by doing these things and clicking on the post icon you are able to present your thoughts to me through a causal sequence that will result in me thinking about what you are thinking. For any sentient being knowledge and intention precede action and the action is causally traced to the knowledge and intention to perform that action.

    God’s knowledge and intention to create in a specific way that would bring about specific effects is necessarily the cause of His acts of creation. Everything that results through the causal sequences that He started is causally traced back to His perfect knowledge and intentions. This is how He is the Primary Cause of everything. This is also how He causally determines all things through His good actions to ensure the accomplishment of His purposes perfectly.

    When people make a decision, that decision is causally influenced by all of their circumstances. Who ultimately determined where we would be born, or who our parents would be, or what time period we would be born into, or what religion we would be raised in? Who ultimately determined our physical and mental abilities or any natural predispositions we might have? All of these things are ultimately traced back to God as their primary cause. Being faced with a decision is the result of external circumstances, and what we decide is an effect brought about the specific set of both internal and external circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment of decision. We can consider our circumstance and evaluate all the information we are presented with through our thought process to determine what course of action is most desirable to us, and we are then free to do exactly what we desire most. This is how we make choices.

    I think you believe that God has given us some sort of mysterious power to act in a way that we don’t desire most. If autonomous freedom is a force that results in us doing something other than what we have determined we want to do most through our thought process, then we could stand before God saying, “You know my greatest desire was to follow and serve You, but that stupid autonomous will You gave me made me do otherwise”. If you think that autonomy is something that negates the causal influences that go into our thought process in determining what we desire to do, then you’re simply denying any link between specific causes and their specific effect. It’s saying that the atheist who says, “I refuse to believe in and follow a being that I can’t see or hear because many brilliant scientist from many fields of study have concluded that there is no such being, and I prefer to live for my own interests instead of the idea of something like that” could also say, “I want more than anything to believe in and follow God because many brilliant scientist from many fields of study have concluded that there is no such being, and I prefer to live for my own interests instead of the idea of something like that”. It’s the same as thinking that shutting of your computer and hitting it with a hammer can equally result in your conveying your thoughts to me as your pressing specific keys on your keyboard spelling specific words that carry specific meanings in an order that will relay a specific concept to me. This is absolute absurdity.

    I think I have established that the Law of Causation requires us to believe that God’s eternal knowledge is the primary cause of all things and that belief in a concept of freedom that violates this law is both inconsistent and by definition illogical. I’m sorry if you think I use “big words”. Prior to this comment, I don’t think I have used any terms that are not common in any half-way serious soteriological discussion. My intention is to convey specific meanings not to be taken seriously because of my use of “big words”. Since you were speaking about your extensive experience in debating and refuting so many Calvinists, I thought you would be familiar with any of the terms I was using. I’m starting to think that your experience has been in refuting straw men while ignoring the protests of the Calvinists who’s views you claim to be addressing. I would really appreciate a response to what I’ve presented instead of just calling me dishonest for saying things I never said. You are presenting an overly simplistic view of Compatibilism. If you don’t move beyond this shallow understanding, from which you draw inaccurate conclusions, you will never be able to respond to what we really believe. I don’t say any of that to be mean or insulting but to encourage you to really consider what I’ve presented. If you understand it fully and give it fair consideration and still find reason to reject it, at least you will be able to accurately represent it and explain why you reject it to others.

    God bless.

  17. My impression is that the meaning of “sovereignty” is the point that divides people whether Calvinist or not. Start with Arthur Pink’s, “The Sovereignty of God,” and ask on what points a person disagrees with Pink and what they think the Scriptures teach that he ignored and I think a basic divisions will come out.

  18. Matt,

    “I have continually stated my beliefs clearly, and you have continually misrepresented them.”

    That’s what all Calvinists say, lol. What you mean is I refuse to buy into the way you rationalize your beliefs. I’m never going to buy into it. I see Calvinism for what it is.

    “I can’t force you to acknowledge the difference, but it is a real difference.”

    No there isn’t. If man has no free will. Then his thoughts and intentions could only come from God. God is the one who put the desires and evil in his heart. That makes God unholy and evil. You can’t face it, though. You rationalize it because you can’t stomach it.

    “God’s knowledge and intention to create in a specific way that would bring about specific effects is necessarily the cause of His acts of creation.”

    Says WHO? The Bible or the Calvinists? Like I said, you have no idea how God’s knowledge works. No human being does. Please stop pretending you do. It’s presumptuous and a little embarrassing.

    “Everything that results through the causal sequences that He started is causally traced back to His perfect knowledge and intentions. This is how He is the Primary Cause of everything. This is also how He causally determines all things…”

    KNOWLEDGE, in and of itself, doesn’t CAUSE anything, Matt. God either gave us autonomous wills that created evil on their own OR He created people with NO autonomous will and HE put the evil there. You want to have it both ways, claiming we have no free will and yet we’re evil simply because God knew we’d be…that’s ridiculous.

    “…through His good actions to ensure the accomplishment of His purposes perfectly.”

    Tell me, why’d you have to throw the word “good” in there? Is it an attempt to prevent thinking people from drawing the only LOGICAL conclusion one can draw (which is that the Calvinist God, who decrees evil, can’t possibly be “good”)? Isn’t that why Calvinists throw the word “justly” in whenever the talk about how God, despite creating evil in men’s hearts, “justly” punishes man for his sins?

    Do you Calvies really think you can just toss words like “good” and “justly” into the middle of a sentence and magically redefine reality? Did that trick work on you when you were a fledgling Calvinist? No offense, but it’s a little insulting, you know? It’s like you think I’m stupid or something.

    “When people make a decision, that decision is causally influenced by all of their circumstances.”

    You’re presuming that acts of the human will MUST be determined by some external cause. But you’ve yet to prove that’s true. That’s called “begging the question.” YOU believe in determinism. I believe in autonomous will. I REJECT the assumption that our decisions must necessarily be determined by an external cause–it’s nothing more than a theory.

    “…and we are then free to do exactly what we desire most. This is how we make choices.”

    I noticed when you asked me that series of “Who ultimately determined”s you forgot to ask me who ultimately determined WHAT WE DESIRE MOST? Was that on purpose, Matt?

    “If autonomous freedom is a force that results in us doing something other than what we have determined we want to do most through our thought process, then we could stand before God saying, “You know my greatest desire was to follow and serve You, but that stupid autonomous will You gave me made me do otherwise”

    No, I think if my greatest desire was really to follow Him, then that’s what I’d do. But, my greatest desire isn’t necessarily determined by external circumstances or by God Himself. That’s determinism. I don’t believe in that. I believe God gave me the ability to choose, so I chose. If I’d chosen to continue in disbelief instead of faith (preferring my sin over the love and truth God was offering me), then God would hold me accountable for exchanging the truth for a lie.

    You know what else I think? I think you Calvinists have to make things complicated to the point of absurdity because that’s the only way to make your systematic work.

    “I think I have established that the Law of Causation requires us to believe that God’s eternal knowledge is the primary cause of all things…”

    Knowledge in and of itself obviously doesn’t cause anything, Matt. I don’t understand why anyone would believe that; it makes absolutely no sense at all.

    “…and that belief in a concept of freedom that violates this law is both inconsistent and by definition illogical.”

    Hahahaha! I don’t think so, but ya definitely get an A for effort! 🙂

    “Since you were speaking about your extensive experience in debating and refuting so many Calvinists, I thought you would be familiar with any of the terms I was using.”

    Oh, I’m very familiar with the high-highfalutin, pretentious language. But I’m a down-to-earth kinda girl. It bores and annoys me when people over-intellectualize.

    “I’m starting to think that your experience has been in refuting straw men while ignoring the protests of the Calvinists who’s views you claim to be addressing.”

    I’m not ignoring your “protests,” Matt. I JUST DON’T BUY THEM is all. And I’m telling you exactly WHY I don’t buy them…

    “I would really appreciate a response to what I’ve presented instead of just calling me dishonest for saying things I never said.”

    I think you’re intellectually dishonest. You can’t face up to the moral implications of your beliefs, so you rationalize, rationalize, and rationalize…

    “You are presenting an overly simplistic view of Compatibilism.”

    Compatibilism isn’t complicated. God puts good and evil desires into men’s hearts and men can’t help but act on them. Then God “justly” punishes them, lolol. YOU are making it more complicated than it is because you’re deceiving yourself.

    “If you don’t move beyond this shallow understanding, from which you draw inaccurate conclusions, you will never be able to respond to what we really believe.”

    Actually, I think I’m doing a great job of refuting you. It’s kind of a piece of cake, lol 😉

    “I don’t say any of that to be mean or insulting but to encourage you to really consider what I’ve presented. If you understand it fully and give it fair consideration and still find reason to reject it, at least you will be able to accurately represent it and explain why you reject it to others.”

    I have. In fact, I think I see Calvinism much more clearly than you do. And I don’t buy ANY of it. Disagreeing with you isn’t the same thing as misunderstanding you, Matt.

    1. Amyra,

      First, I hope this gets through. My earlier comment from this afternoon is still in moderation as of 9:25pm CDT.

      I am of the reformed faith. Matt is doing an excellent job of defending the reformed faith. I think he is right that you are not representing well compatibilism for instance as in your comment, “Compatibilism isn’t complicated. God puts good and evil desires into men’s hearts and men can’t help but act on them.”

      I would suggest if you want to understand the reformed faith you interact with the decree of God and compatibilism by reading the WCF and/or the LBC 1689 and refute the wording in those confessions. Just a thought.

      God bless.

  19. Les,

    I bet you do think he’s doing a great job, lol. You would. But, why should that impress me?

    I know what Calvinism is, and I know what compatibilism is. And I know you all rationalize it because you can’t stomach the moral implications. You obfuscate and use flowery language to cover up the stench of it, and when people lay it out plainly you claim they “don’t understand.” Calvinism: the most “misunderstood” doctrine on the planet, lol. I have a lot more respect for those Westboro Calvinists. At least they’re HONEST about the kind of God they think they serve.

    But, I’ll go with you a moment for the sake of argument, yeah? Ok, I’m “oversimplifying” things. Isn’t it interesting how your beliefs (as you would like to present them) are sooooo “complex” and “difficult” for everyone to understand, yet the Gospel is supposed to be so simple? God never told you to preach Calvinism. No one needs to believe this philosophy to be saved. And yet many Calvinists insist on cramming it down everyone’s throats. Why? Because the more people there are around you who believe the lie, the easier it is to suppress the truth?

    You see, you CAN’T simplify your beliefs and state them plainly because if you do that, then everyone (including you) will see Calvinism for EXACTLY what it is. A transparent lie of the devil.

    Well, I don’t have that problem, because I’m not emotionally committed to Calvinism. So, I can say it plainly: God determines everything, including man’s evil thoughts and desires. Because, since man has no autonomous will, he couldn’t have created the evil desires in himself. Man can’t help but act upon these desires God determined for him, and yet God punishes him for it (oh, and you throw in the word “justly” as if the mere act of tossing the word in somehow nullifies the obvious injustice of it all).

    Simple. And ugly.

    May God persuade you to leave Calvinism and come to His truth.

    1. Amyra,

      Yes I do think he’s doing a great job, but I wasn’t really trying to impress you.

      “I know what Calvinism is, and I know what compatibilism is.” Well, I politely disagree. You have put forth a caricature of both in these comments. Matt has tried very politely to try to steer you toward a better understanding.

      “Isn’t it interesting how your beliefs (as you would like to present them) are sooooo “complex” and “difficult” for everyone to understand, yet the Gospel is supposed to be so simple?”

      The Reformed faith is not really complicated. For instance, on God’s decree the WCF says, “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

      Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

      That’s not really complicated. Now for sure you may disagree with it, but it’s not complicated. But there is mystery there. God ordains all that comes to pass and yet neither is he (God) the author of sin nor does he violate the will of man. Mystery yes. Just as was stated in the original post, “…while the rest of us are fine living with the tension of the infinite mystery afforded by the scriptures on this issue. Every system has its mysteries, whether some are willing to acknowledge it or not.”

      “God never told you to preach Calvinism. No one needs to believe this philosophy to be saved.” Agreed. And I never preach Calvinism in my almost 30 years in the Reformed faith and neither do most Reformed churches “preach Calvinism.”

      “And yet many Calvinists insist on cramming it down everyone’s throats.” Some probably do. As some insist that everything is about refuting Calvinism. Some are just as over focused the other direction Amyra.

      I’ll just leave the “lie” and “devil” comments alone.

      God bless and I hope you have a joy filled day.

    2. Amyra Batya writes, “God determines everything, including man’s evil thoughts and desires. Because, since man has no autonomous will, he couldn’t have created the evil desires in himself. Man can’t help but act upon these desires God determined for him, and yet God punishes him for it…”

      It is true that God determines all things. Still, man has a will and a nature (the heart) and can originate desires of his own and act on those desires. That man does not have an autonomous will means that he is not independent of God – not a law unto himself – so God can restrain a person’s desires and his ability to carry out his desires. God does not have to originate/initiate anything a person thinks; the person is able to think on his own. Jesus said that evil desires arise from the person’s heart. That is Calvinism 101.

  20. Doesn’t Arminianism have the same problem?

    According to Arminianism,
    1. God created the world knowing that evil would come into it.
    2. He did not stop creating the world even though He knew all the evil that would come.
    3. He did this because He wanted the world even with all its evil to come into being.
    Therefore, the Arminian God “approves” evil in the same way that you are saying the Calvinist God approves evil.

    1. Seth,

      You claim that in Arminianism/non-calvinism that God “approves” evil in the same way as he does so in calvinism.

      I think you are missing some things, things that once presented show there are major differences between calvinism and non-calvinism regarding evil. In Calvinism God intends and preplans every sin that occurs: as he predestines everything that happens. That means that whatever sins or evils occur, they are exaclty what God wants to occur (if he did not want it to happen he would not have decreed them all and controlled things to ensure they all occur exactly as he preplanned them). This also means that all sin and evil is necessitated, it has to happen and it is impossible for it not to occur.

      In Non-calvinism God creates a world where people and angels have the potential to do sin and evil when they choose to do so. So when they sin or do evil is it freely chosen, not necessitated. They could and should have done otherwise. In calvinism sin occurs because God wants it to occur and preplanned for it to occur and controls things to make sure it occurs as planned. In non-calvinism sin occurs when people act contrary to God’s will. In calvinism when people sin they are doing God’s will, they are doing what God predestined them to do and it is impossible for them to do otherwise than what God predestined them to do. In non-calvinism when people sin they are going against God’s will as revealed in scripture.

      Also in non-calvinism God allows sin to occur, he does not predestine it to occur. Sometimes God may use the evil choices of men to accomplish a good purpose but even in these situations it is not God “approving” the sins being committed. It is instead God using these sinful choices that he knows people will freely choose to do in contradiction of His will as expressed in scripture. Using them to achieve a good purpose while disapproving them is very different from predestinating them to occur. I think you ought to see my point.

      1. Robert writes, “Also in non-calvinism God allows sin to occur, he does not predestine it to occur.”

        The difference here is that Calvinism says that God is omniscient even with regard to the future. When the non-Calvinist says “God allows sin to occur,” he means that God is not omniscient with regard to the future but must look into the future to learn the decisions people make and then work with those decisions to accomplish His purposes.

        Under Calvinism, God is omniscient; under non-Calvinism, God is not omniscient (as Robert forcefully describes). Where God is omniscient, that which God allows is that which God ordains (or predestines in Roberts language) – allow and ordain are the same.

    2. Seth,
      1. What are you suggesting it is that God knows? Does he know what we will freely choose or does he know what he has determined for us to choose? That is an important distinction regardless of if our finite logic believes them to be one in the same.

      2. Could parents choose not to procreate even though they know their child will have suffering and eventually die? I refer you to the CS Lewis quote regarding why God created mankind with free moral will and the love and joy which it produces. Ask a child if he would rather have a stuffed animal or a real puppy. Even after explaining how the real puppy will cause messes and create trouble he almost will always choose the real puppy. Why? The stuffed animal will never cause those masses and will only do what you wanted to. What is the difference? The answer is love. It is messy but apparently worth it.

      3. The word approves is a bit vague. Permitting something to happen that is wrong is not the same as “approving” of it.

      God allows us to go our own way and suffer the full weight of the consequences for our free actions. Suffering exist because of the freedom of the economist will. God certainly has a purpose and allowing for such freedom. That does not mean he necessarily purposes or approves or causes or decrees or “insert whatever verb you prefer here” the moral evil that we desire and choose.

  21. “To show off how powerful He is, God meticulously determined all the heinous desires and subsequent evil actions of every creature who has ever lived in such a way that they could not have done otherwise, including the rapes of children, the holocaust, slavery, torture, and every single evil thought, deed or inclination because that was what He planned and ultimately desired to come to pass.

    One of the statements may be much more palatable and easier to affirm, but both are stating the same basic meaning. Applied theology means just that. It is when our theological rhetoric is taken out of the class room and applied in the real world. Some people cannot stomach it, while others revel in its destain as a badge of honor, almost as if the more offensive their views are to others the more likely they are to be correct”

    are we going to deny what james 1:13-15 plainly says in making this argument? God indeed predeteminded all actions and events in time but man acts upon the desires of their heart and not a decree he knows nothing about. man will be punished for acting upon those inward desires.

    God authorized actions and events. only by the law of God are the actions and events deemed good or bad, sinful or righteous. take away the law and there is no sin(romans 5:13), but just things happening. God is not the author of sin, He is the author of actions and events and the determiner of sin by His law which is a recflection of His character.

    God created for His glory. that’s the reason anything exists. creation is here for God, God is not here for creation. romans 9:14-23 explains this. God can do as he pleases with what He created and what is His. if God chose to make people for destruction to display His holiness, justice, and power and also make people for salvation to display His love, mercy, kindness, He has every right to do this. if thats what God created for(rom9:14-23 says), who are we as His creatures to say anything about it?

    “And, no, if God decreed the evil in men’s hearts, caused it, decided that it would be there, PUT it there, and it didn’t arise from man’s autonomous will, then God is the only sinner in the universe.”

    a few problems with this statement:

    why are these desires evil to begin with? they’re just desires to do something. what makes them evil?

    God did not coerse, entice, or convince these people to do what they did. he ordained that the action or event would take place while the agent acted on the desires in their heart. if you disagree with this then you’re left arguing with God’s inspired word(james 1:13-15)

    accusing God of sin is absurd. we as creatures have no right to dictate to our Creator how and for what pirpose He was to create. that’s just ridiculous. to make such an argument again pits us against God’s own inspired word(romans 9:19-21).

    now, one would ask: where does desire come from?

    Since God is the God of the ends as well as the means. they would indeed come from God. again, this does not make God the author of sin, as he did not force, coerse, or enitice anyone to sin. He simply decreed the action and as well as the means in which that action would occur. man does not make decisions based on something they don’t know but on the desries within them and this is what they will be punished on.

    i would expound upon this further but i gotta go to work.

  22. Seth,

    Knowledge of evil is not the same as “approval of evil.” Because God is loving, He created a world in which humans have choice. Because of this, at some point, Adam sinned of his own choice. God is not responsible for Adam’s free choice just by knowing of it. God by nature is a Creator so to expect Him not to create because He foreknows things is absurd. He created everything good in the beginning. I feel like I am arguing with an atheist now. I wonder why debating Calvinists often feels this way???

    1. Kyle Bailey writes, “God is not responsible for Adam’s free choice just by knowing of it.”

      Definitions are important here. Because God is sovereign and thereby has the final say on all that happens, then the conclusion is that God is responsible for everything that happens. God knew that Adam would choose to eat the fruit; God had the ability and power to prevent Adam choosing that outcome; God is ultimately responsible for Adam’s choices.

      However, the distinction is that responsibility does not require causation. While God is responsible for all things that happen – and this necessitated by sovereignty – God is not the immediate cause of everything that happens. By immediate cause is meant that God does not force/coerce/influence Adam to choose to eat the fruit. This was a decision made by Adam consistent with his will – Adam was free to choose as he wanted (where “free” is a fuzzy concept for discussion elsewhere).

  23. Les (and the 5-8th paragraphs also answer Seth),

    “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    This is the part that’s nonsensical: “as thereby neither is God the author of sin…” You can’t say God ordained (i.e. decided and ordered) everything that happens on the earth and THEN turn around and say: “But He’s still not the author of sin.” That’s NONSENSE. Strip away all the wordiness and what you basically get is: “Sin originated from and was caused by God, such that man couldn’t have made ANY other choice but to commit the sins God ordained for him, yet we mustn’t allow ourselves to think God is morally responsible for any of the evil and sin He caused.” Or even: “God is the originator of sin, but we mustn’t say He’s the author of sin.”

    Why on earth would you accept such a nonsensical statement just because some fallible “theologians” wrote it down on a piece of paper? You’ve got to be kidding me, Les.

    “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

    And, as I said, knowing in and of itself doesn’t CAUSE anything (that much is obvious). Knowing is knowing. Decreeing (i.e. deciding and commanding) is quite another. And there’s a huge moral difference between knowing and allowing vs. deciding and commanding. There’s a moral difference between knowing someone’s gonna get killed vs. commanding, decreeing, ordering that someone be killed. There’s also a legal difference, according to our laws. Everyone knows this (even Calvies know it), but when we’re talking about God, suddenly you want to pretend there’s no moral difference. This is what I mean by intellectual dishonesty.

    “…there is mystery there. God ordains all that comes to pass and yet neither is he (God) the author of sin nor does he violate the will of man.”

    Sounds like we agree it’s nonsense. But, instead of calling it “nonsense,” you call it a “mystery.” It’s NOT a “mystery,” Les. It’s contradictory nonsense. It’s a lie (and a transparent one at that). Man has no free will, couldn’t have made ANY other choice than the one God ordained for him, and yet man is to blame for sin and not God. You would see the absurdity of this so clearly, if we were talking about anyone other than God.

    In other words, you know the moral difference between my saying I KNEW someone would get killed vs saying I CAUSED someone to get killed. You understand it’s morally senseless to call ALL your children to dinner, knowing most of them are locked in their rooms and can’t get out, and then turn round and punish them because they didn’t come to dinner! You can clearly see the absurdity of it. Yet you’ll turn logic and morality completely on it’s head in order to remain committed to Calvinism.

    “God never told you to preach Calvinism. No one needs to believe this philosophy to be saved.” Agreed. And I never preach Calvinism in my almost 30 years in the Reformed faith and neither do most Reformed churches “preach Calvinism.”

    Yet, it seems most Calvinists spend more time trying to persuade other Christians to be Calvinists than they do preaching the gospel to the lost.

    “…some insist that everything is about refuting Calvinism.”

    Some may think do so; and many others see Calvinism for the destructive lie that it is and feel compelled to say about it 🙂

    God bless.

    1. “Why on earth would you accept such a nonsensical statement just because some fallible “theologians” wrote it down on a piece of paper? You’ve got to be kidding me, Les.”

      🙂 over and out.

    2. Amyra Batya writes, “There’s a moral difference between knowing someone’s gonna get killed vs. commanding, decreeing, ordering that someone be killed.”

      The distinction here is that we are dealing with God who is sovereign. God does not just know that someone’s going to get killed; God has the ability and power to intervene and prevent the person being killed. God has the final say as to a person being killed. It is God who makes the final decision not to intervene to prevent a person being killed and that decision is God’s decree that the person will be killed. This conclusion is made necessary by sovereignty – to avoid this conclusion requires that one deny that God is sovereign.

  24. RHutchin

    It is true that God determines all things. Still, man has a will and a nature (the heart) and can originate desires of his own and act on those desires.

    That’s a contradictory statement, Hutch. You affirmed determinism and then turned right round and affirmed libertarian free will. This so exemplifies the way Calvinists twist logic in knots trying to escape the moral implications of their beliefs. If you can’t stomach the fact that God determining ALL THINGS means God is the originate of SIN and EVIL then you should renounce Calvinist. Stop trying to clean it up and turn it into something it’s not.

    Because when you say: “Still, man…can originate desires of his own and act on those desires,” that is NOT Calvinism. You’ve changed the systematic to make it more morally palatable for yourself, because deep down you realize that if man can’t originate his own evil desires then God is the one who is evil.

    “…so God can restrain a person’s desires and his ability to carry out his desires.”

    If God is the one who determined the limits of man’s actions “before time,” then He shouldn’t need to restrain man’s actions “in time.” That’s like saying you programmed a computer with DOS only, and yet later you have to “restrain” the computer from spontaneously booting up to Windows 8. Where could the computer possibly get Windows from if it wasn’t originally programmed in?

    1. Amyra Batya writes, “[rhutchin writes] It is true that God determines all things. Still, man has a will and a nature (the heart) and can originate desires of his own and act on those desires.

      That’s a contradictory statement, Hutch. You affirmed determinism and then turned right round and affirmed libertarian free will.”

      The problem here is that you seem to be defining “determine” to mean “cause.” However, God can determine an outcome without having to cause that outcome. For example, God determined that Satan should enter the garden and tempt Adam/Eve. By allowing Satan to enter the garden, God determined that Adam/Eve would eat the fruit – other than Christ, no one can resist Satan’s temptation absent God’s intervention. Determinism says that God is sovereign and exercises full control over all that happens and nothing happens unless God decides/decrees that it will happen. Determinism does not make God the cause of that which He determines.

      Amyra Batya writes,“[rhutchinwrites] ‘…so God can restrain a person’s desires and his ability to carry out his desires.’

      If God is the one who determined the limits of man’s actions “before time,” then He shouldn’t need to restrain man’s actions ‘in time’.”

      Except that is the way it works. God decreed that Christ be slain before the foundation of the world but God brought it about in the course of history. Similarly God decreed to impregnate Mary before the foundation of the world and brought it about in the course of time. Same for the flood of Noah, the destruction of Sodom/Gomorrah, the stoning of Stephen, the release of Peter, the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus, etc.

      We can describe this as God programming history but this program still requires that God intervene to bring about certain things – God is always adding new lines of code to establish vents that would not happen otherwise. The flood of Noah would not have happened without God stepping in to cause the flood. Saul of Tarsus would not have been saved apart form God stepping in to confront him on the road to Damascus. God sustains all things. No one dies until God decrees that they die; no one can be born without God decreeing that they be born. God decreed all things before the foundation of the world; God is active in bringing about that which He has decreed and does so as history plays out.

  25. Amyra,

    I can sympathize with your frustation at the comments that Matt Mayo is making. It is like being with someone in conversation and it is raining outside and they look outside and comment about the rain, then five minutes later in the same conversation they look outside and say it is not raining (when it actually is still raining). If that keeps happening in the conversation you might think: is this guy just lying, this is outrageous. You have said a few times that Matt is being dishonest, I think that comes from the frustration of seeing contradictions affirmed as non-contradictions repeatedly. I am not sure he is intentionally lying: I do see him being inconsistent repeatedly and in some cases outrageoulsy. Let’s assume he is a nice guy who holds erroneous calvinist beliefs and he is trying as hard as he can to rationalize and justfify these false beliefs.

    Matt holds a false premise, that you have pointed out as false as well: namely, that whatever God foreknows he intends. Scripture never says this nor has this ever been demonstrated by logical reasoning. It is a presuppostion that Matt holds. Matt then adds the idea that God foreknows all things. So he reasons that since God foreknows all things and since whatever he foreknows he intends, therefore God intends all events that occur. As you have pointed out, if this reasoning is true, then God intends every sin and evil that occurs. This makes God the author of sin. This contradicts God’s word where he says that he is hold and separate from sin and that when we sin we sin from our own sinful desires. Matt likes to say repeatedly that God is a perfect moral being, and we would all agree with this. But if God is the author of sin this maligns God’s character and this contradicts him being a perfect moral being. The problem is not scripture which presents God as an awesome being, loving, just, forgiving, merciful, righteous, holy, etc. The problem is the calvinistic system and its exhaustive determinism. The implications of the system contradict what God says in HIs word, hence your frustration with repeated affirmations of contradictions by Matt. If you read Matt you see the same false presuppositions being stated over and over. Amyra you have done a good job brining out these false presuppositoins and their implications. I don’t think Matt is dishonest I do think that due to his system he has to rationalize what cannot be rationalized and affirm contradictions as he goes along. It is sad to see well meaning people who have to say some incredible and nonbiblical things because of allegiance to a false theological system. It is not a matter of sincerity or intelligence, it is being ensnared by a falsel system of theology.

  26. Robert,

    I agree with almost everything you’re saying, accept I just have a really hard time believing they don’t know, deep down, that if God is the originator and cause of ALL things, then He must also be the author of evil and sin. It seems to me that they suppress this truth rather than are completely ignorant of it… I mean, how could anyone — ANY thinking person — not see this?

    I’ll check back to see if you respond. But then I’m moving on, not only because I have things to do, but because I think I’ve made my points clearly enough for this article. Readers will decide for themselves what made sense 😉

    Check ya later, brother

    1. Amyra,

      Oh I believe that if they have carefully thought through their beliefs then they do know that God is the author of sin. That he originates every sin, that he preplans every sin, that he desires for every sin to occur exactly as it does. What I think they then do is try to rationalize away the problem.

      Note Matt tried to argue and rationalize it away in multiple ways. One way was to argue that since God intends whatever he foreknows and since he foreknows everything, therefore he must intend every sin and evil.(Note this argument is trying to use God’s foreknowledge to justify and rationalize sin) Another way was to argue that God is a perfect being and so his plans are necessarily perfect and since he preplanned all sin they are all necessary to his perfect plan (note this argument if valid not only explains the presence of sin but makes every sin NECESSARY to God’s plan). Another way was to argue for deterterminism where God creates a domino like world, he sets up all the dominoes (events of history) and then he knocks down the first domino in the series and they all go down exactly as planned. If some of those dominoes that go down are sinful events, so be it, they are just part of the causal chain. (So determinism is used to rationalize and justify God as author of sin).

      So Yes I think deep down they know their theological determinism/calvinistic system makes God the author of sin. Perhaps you know him but Vincent Cheung is a consistent calvinist and he has no hesitation in saying that God is the author of sin. In fact if you want to see what consistent calvinism looks like you will find no better example than Vincent Cheung. Check out his website if you want to see it. Amyra you will get frustrated though seeing it though.

      Once they arrive at that conclusion in order to avoid cognitive dissonance, they have to develope these multiple ways of rationalizing and justifying their erroneous ideas/system. Matt has actually been a very good example of how they do this. Many calvinists are not nearly as consistent as Matt so they will even bring in non-calvinistic concepts like God permitting sin, people freely choosing to sin rather than being determined by God to sin, proximate versus remote causation, etc. Most calvinists are not consistent with their own premises because they really cannot stomach the conclusiios that follow from their false premises. Matt is not one of those, he has not problem with the implications of his premises. Again it is sad to see believers using their intelligence to defend and promote and justify and rationalize a false theology/calvinism.

  27. Robert,

    P.S. I forgot to thank you for bringing clarity about God’s intentions. That’s the word I should have used. Knowing and intending are not the same thing. Nor do knowledge or intention, in and of themselves, ever actually cause anything. To cause something (i.e. to produce an effect) you have to ACT. Seems like Calvinists live in denial of this — that, if determinism is true (even compatibilist determinism), and man has no autonomous, contra-causal, or libertarian free will, then God MUST have performed some act to create evil desires in people. He couldn’t have just sat back and passively “allowed” the evil to spontaneously arise into their minds… How could the evil get there if man had no ability to create it in himself? How does a computer boot up to windows if no one originally programmed it to do so?

    God bless.

    1. Amyra,

      Yes knowing and intending are not at all the same.

      I remember when OJ was in the white Bronco going down the freeways of LA and millions of us watched it on TV. We knew it was happening and we had true knowledge of the events that they were happening. But our knowledge did not cause that Bronco to go down those freeways. This points out an important distinction to keep in my. Something may have a causal relation with something else or a logical relation with something else. Those who witnessed the Bronco going down the freeways live, if you asked us: Is OJ in that Bronco going down the freeway? We would have answered Yes. And our belief was a true belief that had a logical relation with the actual event of the Bronco going down the freeway. Our belief was true, but it did not cause the Bronco to go down the freeway. Our belief had a logical relation with the event, not a causal relation. ON the other hand, Al Cowlings was pushing his pedal on the gas pedal of the Broncno, and tdhat combined with the laws of physics, the proper operation of the Bronco engine caused the Bronco to go down the freeway that day. Al Cowlings foot pressing the pedal did have a causal relation with the event that was going down.

      What am I getting at? God’s knowledge has a logical relation with the things that he knows, not a causal relation. God’s knowledge of events past, present and future does not cause those events to occur. No, his knowledge, including his foreknowledge of future events has a logical relation with those events. So God’s beliefs about the future are true, they correspond with what will in fact occur. But his beliefs about the future do not cause those events, nor do those future events cause his knowledge (because it is not a causal relation but a logical relation). I know that 2 + 2 = 4, but my knowledge of that fact does not cause that to be true, nor does the truth of 2 =2 = 4 cause my knowledge of this fact. It is a logical relation. Calvinists often fail to take this distinction into consideration so they talk as if God’s knowledge has a causal relation with events rather than a logical relation.

      Amyra I love your computer programming analogies, very good analogies!

    2. Amyra Batya writes, “To cause something (i.e. to produce an effect) you have to ACT. Seems like Calvinists live in denial of this…”

      Not exactly. God acts in different ways. God directly “causes” certain events – flood of Noah, the impregnation of Mary, the salvation of Saul of Tarsus. God “allows” certain events by not intervening to prevent them – Cain’s murder of Abel, the rape of Dinah by Shechem, David’s adultery, the stoning of Stephen. God “restrains” certain actions – Abimilech’s treatment of Sarah, the inability of the Jews to stone or kill Jesus before His time, not allowing Paul to got into Macedonia.

      In each of these things, God can be described as the “cause” in the sense that He was involved in bringing about the end result (and the end result did not happen absent God’s involvement) but not in the sense that His actions were necessary to originate the actions of the people involved (those people were making willful decisions consistent with their natures).

  28. Amyra,

    I’m disappointed that you continue to repeat the same bare assertions about my views without actually dealing with them. Have you ever thought that the reason all Calvinists say you continually misrepresent them might be because you are actually misrepresenting them?

    You claim that there is no difference between God directly planting evil in someone’s heart and God knowing that the nature of that person and the circumstances surrounding them (which will result in an evil desire) will eventually be effectuated as a result of His far removed good actions. I would agree that there is no difference in the outcome either way. That person’s evil desires and actions are just as determined in both cases, but the actions of God are vastly different. In one case God is directly working evil, but in the other case all of God’s actions are good and His intention for the evil happening is to perfectly achieve His good purposes. I’ve explained this already. The two propositions: “All of God’s actions are good” and “Some of God’s actions are not good” (a universal affirmative and particular negative with the same subjects and predicates) are by logical definition contradictory. Yet you see no difference?

    You complain about my use of the word good to describe God’s actions and claim that the only logical conclusion is that a God who decrees evil can’t possibly be good. If you can point to one of God’s actions that is not good, I would quit using the word good to describe them all. Scripture says that God created man “very good” and I believe it. Before you try throwing out something about determining evil, remember what I already said about the perfect Being with perfect knowledge knowing perfectly what He should achieve and how to achieve it. This would mean that every minute detail of His creation works toward achieving His ultimate purpose not just in some way or a good way but in the best way. This being the case, and knowing that specific evils happen within His creation, we can surely conclude that these evils are absolutely necessary in the best accomplishment of the ultimate good. You on the other hand believe that God created knowing full well that His creation would be full of evil that was not necessary in the accomplishment of anything good.

    BTW, all those questions about pedophiles and the Holocaust that are so often thrown at Calvinists sound much worse for those of you who try to answer the “problem of evil” with libertarian freedom. Your view when followed to its logical conclusion only says that God valued the preservation of the pedophiles’ or Hitler’s autonomously free will over the lives of their victims and their wills to not be raped and live.

    You quoted one of my statements about God’s knowledge and intention to create being the cause of His acts of creation and said, “KNOWLEDGE, in and of itself, doesn’t CAUSE anything, Matt”. My statement that you quoted followed a lengthy paragraph (third paragraph of my last comment) that explained this. Please reread it. You didn’t engage with anything at all in my explanation of it. You did go on to say that I claim we have no free will, but the truth is I have a different view of free will. Of course I’m sure you don’t think that compatibilistic freedom is “real” freedom.

    In response to me saying that a person’s decisions are causally influenced by all of their circumstances you say, “You’re presuming that acts of the human will MUST be determined by some external cause. But you’ve yet to prove that’s true. That’s called “begging the question.”” Actually I didn’t just presume anything. I explained the logical necessity of my statement in the paragraph you quoted from and the one following it. That’s hardly begging the question. Once again please reread it.

    I gave two possibilities for how autonomous freedom could operate: either independent of a person’s thought process by which they determine which option in a choice is most desirable or somehow within the determination process. In response to the example I used for the first possibility you said, “No, I think if my greatest desire was really to follow Him, then that’s what I’d do. But, my greatest desire isn’t necessarily determined by external circumstances or by God Himself.” This sounds like the second possibility, which was totally ignored. Both go directly against the Law of Causation and I demonstrated why that was. If you want to deny causation I guess you can do that, but as I pointed out, you would be not only inconsistent but by definition illogical.

    Of course you quoted half a sentence of me stating that while ignoring all that I said to support my statement and offered the profound rebuttal, “Hahahaha! I don’t think so” then gave me an A for effort. C’mon now, I think you can do better than that. I spent my time typing out these comments because I really do want to get a meaningful response.

    You say that you think you see Calvinism more clearly than I do and that refuting me is a piece of cake, but I don’t see how you can think you’ve refuted anything I’ve said when you haven’t even addressed it. I think you’re fooling yourself about the whole discussion. I don’t mean that in a condescending way either. Who knows, maybe I’m the one fooling myself instead. In spite of all our differences on this subject, I think you’re my sister in Christ, and I think your views (no matter how wrong they are ;-)) come from a desire to defend the character of God. That being said, can I please get a response to what I actually wrote??? 😉

    God bless sister.

  29. C.S. Lewis said it best…

    “God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any LOVE or GOODNESS or JOY worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.
    Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

  30. Matt,

    “I’m disappointed that you continue to repeat the same bare assertions about my views without actually dealing with them.”

    FALSE. I dealt with them. You just don’t like the way I dealt with it, and that’s perfectly ok. I never expected you to face reality, lol.

    “You claim that there is no difference between God directly planting evil in someone’s heart and God knowing that the nature of that person and the circumstances surrounding them (which will result in an evil desire) will eventually be effectuated as a result of His far removed good actions. I would agree that there is no difference in the outcome either way.”

    FALSE. I said you obfuscate to escape the moral implications of your beliefs. That’s exactly what you’re doing right now. If Calvinism is true. God caused evil desires. That means He acted. He didn’t sit back and passively allow evil to come into man’s heart. Nor did the desires occur simply because God knew they would. Mere knowledge doesn’t cause anything. Man has no autonomous will of his own, so he could not have created the evil desires in himself. Thus, God must have acted to make certain man would have evil desires that he could not help but act upon. And if that’s the case, then God is evil. Not man. I realize YOU don’t want to see it that way, but to me this is crystal clear and logically inescapable.

    ” If you can point to one of God’s actions that is not good, I would quit using the word good to describe them all.”

    Oh, please don’t misunderstand me. Everything the TRUE God does is most certainly good. It’s the Calvinist caricature of God who I’m saying is evil.

    “You on the other hand believe that God created knowing full well that His creation would be full of evil that was not necessary in the accomplishment of anything good.”

    So? What if that were true? That’s a problem for YOU, but I see no BIBLICAL reason to have a problem with it, especially if it means God is 100% holy and has nothing to do with sin.

    Nevertheless, what I ACTUALLY believe is God gave us autonomous wills. We created evil, not God. God allows certain evil acts for a purpose. God disallows other evil acts for a purpose (not by determining man’s actions, or by supernaturally changing man’s wills, but by actively intervening in events). God can also redeem evil acts to work them out to the best. But, since He didn’t cause or decree ANY of it, He can justly condemn it. He can genuinely lament it…You try to claim the same thing whilst simultaneously affirming exhaustive, compatibilist determinism, which is totally inconsistent.

    “Your view when followed to its logical conclusion only says that God valued the preservation of the pedophiles’ or Hitler’s autonomously free will over the lives of their victims and their wills to not be raped and live.”

    FALSE. God values loving relationships over robots. That’s why He gave us our own will. But He values every human life and will JUSTLY condemn those who use the will He gave them to do evil. You see? In my worldview, the word “justly” actually means something 🙂

    “Of course I’m sure you don’t think that compatibilistic freedom is “real” freedom.”

    That’s right. I think the compatibilist version of “freedom” is an abject sham.

    “I explained the logical necessity of my statement in the paragraph you quoted from and the one following it… If you want to deny causation I guess you can do that, but as I pointed out, you would be not only inconsistent but by definition illogical.”

    Yes, I categorically deny that the Law of Causation proves Calvinism, lol 😛 Knowledge and intent are mental states that doesn’t cause anything. God acts. He uses His power to create. And if determinism is true (even if it’s compatiblist) and man has NO autonomous will, then God had to act in some way upon men’s thoughts to create the evil in his mind. If we don’t have autonomous will then we can’t conjure up for ourselves what isn’t there. God had to put it there. So, it’s not that I don’t understand your beliefs, or am not dealing with them. I just don’t accept your assumptions and I’m telling you why I think they’re false.

    “I gave two possibilities for how autonomous freedom could operate…”

    But I don’t accept that anyone fully understands the depths of how autonomous will operates. I think you have theories of how it operates. Just like you have theories about God’s knowledge and intentions. But, at the end of the day, they’re only theories and man-made philosophies. And, more importantly, they don’t come from the Bible.

    What I know and accept is that God gave me the ability to choose what I will do (that’s why scripture shows Him repeatedly behaving as if I have a genuine ability to choose). And because I have the ability to choose, and will choose of my own volition, God can justly hold me accountable for the choices I make. That’s what I know. And I know that no one has ever disproved that. No matter how many l paragraphs you write, no matter how many assertions you make to the contrary, you can never make compatibilist determinism a “logical necessity” or a Biblical one. No one ever has. You’re fooling yourself.

    “I spent my time typing out these comments because I really do want to get a meaningful response.”

    And isn’t it funny how you ignored the meaningful responses I gave BEFORE I started laugh at you? I didn’t need to go back and restate everything again, did I? That’s why I was free to laugh 🙂 at that point, get it? And, by the way, just because a response doesn’t fit your systematic and presuppositions doesn’t mean it isn’t meaningful. It’s just not meaningful TO YOU.

    “I think you’re fooling yourself about the whole discussion. I don’t mean that in a condescending way either. Who knows, maybe I’m the one fooling myself instead…”

    You’ve said a mouthful, lol.

    “…In spite of all our differences on this subject, I think you’re my sister in Christ, and I think your views come from a desire to defend the character of God. That being said, can I please get a response to what I actually wrote???”

    As I said, the fact that you can’t accept my response doesn’t mean I haven’t responded. The fact that I reject your man-made philosophy and its baseless presuppositions doesn’t mean I haven’t understood and addressed them. The fact that you don’t like the way that I addressed them doesn’t mean you haven’t been answered.

    As I was telling Robert, I think I’ve said enough for now.

    Let those who read our exchange decide for themselves what makes sense to them 😉

    God bless you, brother!

  31. Robert,

    Thanks again for your thoughtfulness and clarity. It’s very helpful. I’ll check out Vincent Cheung, too.

    P.S.

    The computer analogies are from my years as a software technician (back in the days of DOS, Windows 3.11,and 3.5” floppy disks, lol). The company I worked for produced auto body repair estimation software and I was in the tech support department, taking calls from cranky old body shop guys and helping them fix our crummy software glitches… Seems like a lifetime ago. Life was so simple back then.

    I’m done for now. Until next time, brother.

    God bless you 🙂

  32. Robert,

    It seems that you have at least taken the time to read and understand some of what I have said. Thank you for that. You said that I have repeatedly affirmed contradictions as non-contradictions. I think the word contradiction is thrown around in these types of discussions way too often and usually erroneously. Could you please point out any of my views that break the Law of Non-contradiction?

    You also said, “Matt holds a false premise, that you have pointed out as false as well: namely, that whatever God foreknows he intends.” I think I have addressed this already. If nothing other than God existed in eternity past, then His knowledge of everything other than Himself is necessarily knowledge of what will result from His creative actions. Now it can certainly be true that I can know of someone killing someone else but have nothing to do with the person actually doing it. I didn’t create the killer or the victim. I didn’t know, and through my own actions ensure, that the killer and victim would live at the same time, come into contact with each other, or the surrounding circumstances that gave one the motivation to kill the other. God did know these things before creating and created with the knowledge that these things would result from Him creating the specific way He did. This establishes intention. If I throw a rock at a window fully knowing that it will result in the window breaking and there being a big mess of broken glass on the ground, then I necessarily intended for the window to be broken and there to be glass on the ground.

    You said that this contradicts God’s word because God is holy and separate from sin and we sin from our own sinful desires. There is no contradiction here. God is holy. He never sins. As I have pointed out before, all of His actions are perfectly good. Our sin is the direct result of our own desires, which would seem to say that we act in accordance with our desires. I have also pointed out how the introduction of some type of autonomous force into the process of how we determine which course of action is most desirable is irrational and inconsistent with how we live our lives and reason about anything else other than this particular point of soteriology.

    Concerning what I have said about the perfect Being with perfect knowledge acting perfectly to bring about His perfect purposes, you acknowledged “this argument if valid not only explains the presence of sin but makes every sin NECESSARY to God’s plan”. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read and understand what I wrote. I think there are questions that we can consider to see if this is the case. I assume we both agree that God has perfect and exhaustive knowledge. That knowledge would necessarily include things like what a Being such as Himself should accomplish and how He should act to accomplish what He should in the best possible way. Having both the perfect knowledge and the power to act out what He knows He should do, is it possible that He would do anything other than what would achieve His ultimate purposes in the best possible way? Wouldn’t any action that worked in any way less than the best way be the wrong way for God who knows that it isn’t the best way and has the power to act in the best way? I think it is safe to conclude that all of God’s perfections ensure that He always acts perfectly.

    Knowing that God always acts in the perfect way that best accomplishes His purposes, we know that He created a world which works in the best way toward accomplishing His purposes. If any specific action takes place within the universe it was the best action for achieving God’s purposes. In the case of evil actions, I think God prevents evil actions that are not necessary in the accomplishment of His perfect purposes. Scripture gives examples of God preventing sin. If God doesn’t prevent certain evil actions that play out both through the causal sequences He set in motion through His good actions and the secondary agency of people doing exactly what they want to do, then we know those actions were the best actions for accomplishing His purposes. So yes, this not only explains the presence of sin, it explains how every sin is necessary in accomplishing the ultimate good.

    Theoretically there could be two types of evil:

    Good-evil (necessary) which is a morally evil action on the part of the person who does it, but works toward the accomplishment of the ultimate good in the best possible way.

    Evil-evil (unnecessary) which is a morally evil action on the part of the person who does it, and does not work toward the accomplishment of the ultimate good in the best possible way.

    I don’t believe the second type of evil can exist in reality due to the perfections of God’s nature. Non-Calvinists, on the other hand, have a real problem trying to explain the existence of unnecessary evil-evil.

    I know you are familiar with the examples of compatibilism in scripture (like Gen.50:20, Isa.10, Acts4). We can discuss those if you would like. I would be interested in hearing a response to Joseph’s brothers intending to kidnap and sell him into slavery and God intending for them to kidnap Joseph and sell him into slavery. Joseph’s brothers intended it for evil reasons and God intended it for good reasons. I think there are questions that can be answered about this one verse that support a whole lot of what I’ve been saying about Compatibilism.

    I have things to do with my family and a Sunday school lesson to finish preparing between now and Sunday, so I may be a couple of days responding to anything on here again. I will get back as soon as time permits. God bless you brother.

    1. Mike,

      Some real problems with your views on evil.

      First, your view entails that God **is** the author of all evil. He conceives it, devises it and sets up a domino world where the evils he preplans all occur just as planned. The Bible presents neither this domino world deteminism nor does it ever claim that God preplans every evil that occurs (like Mafia don behind all the hits).

      Second, your view leaves out the fact that God created a world where there are other independent wills/persons in addition to him. As independent persons, genuine persons with a capacity for rationality and having and making their own choices. These persons have the capacity to do both good and evil. If they choose to do evil and bring it about it is they who bring about these evils not God. God may foreknow their evil choices but foreknowledge is not causitive: in fact God’s knowledge does not cause things to ocur. This seems to be completely left out of all of your comments about evil actions: you leave out the reality/fact that it is these other persons (men or angels) who bring about these sinful actions not God. Even in your illutration of the broken window the analogy only includes one person actions with the resulting broken glass. But our world is not just one person (God) acting alone: there are other persons, again capable of doing both good and evil actions.

      Third, you present this argument that since God is perfect and whatever he does is perfet, therefore all evils are part of God’s perfect actiong. But again, God may act perfectly, but we do not. In Heaven things are perfect, but not here, at least not yet, not until the eternal state when sinners and all of the effects of sin are eliinated. Jesus said this explicilty when He said that we should pray that God’s will be done on earth (where it is not always done perfectly) as it is in Heaven (where it is always done perfectly).

      Fourth, you invent this philolsophy concerning good-evil and evil-evil which is never stated anywhere in scripture. We do not find this distinciton anywhere in the Bible. It is your invention. In the Bible there is not good-evil and evil-evll, there is good and there is evil. You further qualify this distinction claiming that good evil works to the accomplishment of the ultimate good. Where in the bible does it ever say this? Where does it speak of the “ultimate good”? It doesn’t. Where does it speak of this “ultimate good” being done in the “best way”? Again it is not stated in scripture, it is your invention, your terminology never stated by the Bible. You invent the terminology and then read it into scriptural narratives. For example Amyra points out that at the goal ofJoseph’s bad experiences, what God intended was not the actual evil actions by people against him, but the goal of sparing Joseph’s family from a major famine. This is not “ultimate good” but is a very limited and temporal good. When God used the Assyrians to discipline his disobedient chosen nation/Israel, the evils they suffered did not work to their “ultimate good”, this was temporal good, discipline in real history.

      Fifth, your view of evil as always necessary, and claiming that God could have prevented it unless he wanted it to occur. Breaks down in real life. If you are correct then all the abortions that occur (in the millions) are all events God did not want to prevent but were all necessary for God’s will. Or all the rapes, all the child molestations, etc. etc. are all necessary events for the ultimate good! Try counseling people who have actually suffered these evils and see how far you get with this nonsense. YOu will become like Jobs councelors trying to explain their suffering with your philosophical/theological notions that are completely false and misleading to those you try to “comfort” with your philosophical inventions. The Christian way, as Paul states it, is not to try to ratioalize all evil as somee sort of “good evil” that God uses each evil for some unknown and unspecified ultimate good in the best way: rather, it is to overcome evil with good. When people suffer real and horrible evils they don’t need your kind of baseless philosophical speculation, they need actions that overcome the evil they have experienced. In some cases the evils cannot evern be overcome in this life the injustices not rectified here but can only be dealt with and rectified at the finala judgment.

      Sixth. your arguments are also circular. You assume some premise then argue based upon what you have assumed, and so you end up going in circles. It may sound nice to you and you may thnk you are saying something philosophically deep, but it is all of your imagination without any biblical basis. I noticed when you presented your perfect being argument and your good-evil evil-evil distinction there were no scriptures just your bare assertions asserted and then assumed to be true without any scriptural basis. Anyone can present a pretty air tight sounding argument:if we allow them to assume the things that are being disputed , if we allow them to assume all of their premises without scriptural backing. Non-christian cults engage in this same kind of circular argument, same kind of assuming ones premises then present some argument. Not persuasive to anyone else who does not hold those assumed premises.

      1. Robert writes, “Fifth, your view of evil as always necessary, and claiming that God could have prevented it unless he wanted it to occur. Breaks down in real life. If you are correct then all the abortions that occur (in the millions) are all events God did not want to prevent but were all necessary for God’s will. Or all the rapes, all the child molestations, etc. etc. are all necessary events for the ultimate good!”

        Do you reject the notion that God is omnipresent and attends each abortion and rape that occurs? Nothing is hidden from God’s eyes, or do you disagree; God knows every detail of each abortion and each rape even before it happens and He observe it as it happens, or do you reject the notion that God is omniscient?

        Do you also reject the notion that God is omnipotent and could easily exercise His power to prevent each abortion and each rape that happens as He is present when they occur?

        Do you also reject the notion that God is sovereign and has the final say on whether the abortion or rape is to proceed? Do you reject the notion that God decides whether the abortion or rape will proceed and that He does this by deciding not to exercise His omnipotent power to stop them?

        Do you reject the notion that God makes decisions after the counsel of His own will so that His decisions reflect His perfect understanding and perfect wisdom?

        So how do you then say that “…claiming that God could have prevented it unless he wanted it to occur breaks down in real life”? What is more real in life than God’s omnipresence, His omniscience, His omnipotence; His sovereignty, His infinite understanding; His perfect wisdom? Unless, of course, you reject all of these.

  33. Amyra,

    Perhaps you’re right and our conversation is not going to accomplish anything more. You continue to put words in my mouth that I never used like “passively allow”. I write long explanations about the Law of Causation and the direct causal link between the knowledge and intention to act and the action that proceeds from that knowledge and intention. You believe you are giving a meaningful response by answering with bare assertions like “False”, “I don’t believe that…”, “that’s just a man made theory”, but you have not once pointed out and demonstrated any point in what I wrote that was false. You can deny it all you want, but until you actually interact with my arguments and demonstrate them to be flawed, you have accomplished nothing.

    I think my favorite bare assertion from you this time may have been, “Knowledge and intent are mental states that doesn’t cause anything.” Really? So actions are uncaused effects or maybe there is just no link between what I know I want to do and intend to do and what I actually do. There have been some extreme people during the enlightenment period that claimed that there is no causal link. They claimed that what we want to do just coincidentally happens to be what we do, but there is no causal relationship and the fact that it has always coincidentally happened in a way that seems causal doesn’t mean that it will continue to coincidentally happen that way or that it has always happened that way at some time in the past. Of course they took this absurd view (called coincidentalism) to deny the existence of God as proved through the Cosmological Argument. But hey, if you want to embrace absurdity I doubt I would ever be able to stop you by using reason. 😉

    Seriously though, I’ve already answered everything in your comment multiple times. I’m sure anyone with a half-way objective approach can see that. Don’t go on berating Calvinists with the same old lines that are based on an overly simplistic view of their beliefs. Do yourself a favor and really seek to understand all that we believe in depth. Telling yourself that you already know it all and understand it better than they do isn’t helping anyone, and the main person who is being hurt by it is you. I sincerely wish you well and just prayed for you. (sincerely, not a “turn her from her awful errors” type prayer). God bless you Amyra.

  34. Matt,

    You said: “Now it can certainly be true that I can know of someone killing someone else but have nothing to do with the person actually doing it. I didn’t create the killer or the victim. I didn’t know, and through my own actions ensure, that the killer and victim would live at the same time, come into contact with each other, or the surrounding circumstances that gave one the motivation to kill the other. God did know these things before creating and created with the knowledge that these things would result from Him creating the specific way He did. This establishes intention. If I throw a rock at a window fully knowing that it will result in the window breaking and there being a big mess of broken glass on the ground, then I necessarily intended for the window to be broken and there to be glass on the ground.”

    The illustration of the rock being thrown at the window is a false comparison. God intended in Creation to have a people who would freely worship Him and fellowship with Him as their God. He intends to pour out His love on those who allow Him to. The unfortunate consequence of this intention is that people would be able to freely choose to not love Him. God did not intend for them to choose otherwise, but they did as a consequence of their own choices.

    A more appropriate comparison (a weak one at best because it is meant to build upon your original false comparison) would be having to throw a rock through a window in order to prevent a criminal from harming another person. The intention was to stop the criminal, the unfortunate consequence was the broken window. To say that God intends sinful behavior is in direct contradiction to James 1:13. It seems that when it comes to this contradiction, instead of recanting of your Calvinistic presupposition you instead recant your belief in James 1:13. This is utterly sad. God doesn’t temp any man, and if this is true it would be absurd to believe God goes beyond tempting and actually causes sin!

    1. Kyle,

      I appreciate your comments, you, like Amyra have made some very strong points against the false theology of calvinism.

      For example in your post here you bring up James 1 which as you point out says our sinful choices/actions arise our of sinful desires, not originating from God. It is precisely because we, not God do these sins that James is rebuking them and holding them responsible.

      If the domino world of calvinist/determinists were real, then God is responsible for all sin and evil as it all originates with him, he conceives it, he designs it, he preplans all of it and then he decrees for it to occur and controls things like a puppet master over his puppets to ensure that all the sins he preplanned come to pass as he desired them to come to pass.

  35. Matt,

    //Telling yourself that you already know it all and understand it better than they do isn’t helping anyone, and the main person who is being hurt by it is you.//

    I’d say the same to you, dear 🙂 You don’t know how God’s knowledge works, you don’t know exactly how autonomous will works, nobody knows these things for certain…and pretending you do is nothing more than pompous arrogance that serves absolutely no one.

    Also, your spreading the lies of Calvinism only hurts the church and puts a stumbling block in front of the lost. I pray God will have mercy on you in the day you’re required to answer for that. And I pray He continues to put the truth before your eyes in the hope that you’ll face it and renounce Calvinism so you can start undoing some of the damage you’ve done by teaching this falsehood.

    //You believe you are giving a meaningful response by answering with bare assertions like “False”, “I don’t believe that…”, “that’s just a man made theory”, but you have not once pointed out and demonstrated any point in what I wrote that was false//

    Mmmhmm. Cherry-picking the beginning of my sentences without dealing with what I actually said. Nice. Isn’t that the very thing you accuse me of doing? So, not only are you intellectually dishonest, but you’re a hypocrite as well.

    //So actions are uncaused effects or maybe there is just no link between what I know I want to do and intend to do and what I actually do//

    You know very well what I was trying to say was that God’s knowledge and intention, in and of themselves, don’t create anything. Same for people. You’re internal mental states don’t impact the world around you, but your ACTIONS do. In order for God to create, He can’t simply KNOW or INTEND, He must ACT. Thus, if man has no autonomous will, God must act (either directly or indirectly) to create evil in man’s heart, not merely “foreknow” that it will arise there.

    In other words, if man has no autonomous will, he doesn’t have the power to conjure up evil in his own heart. Either God actively placed evil desires in his heart OR God created man in such a way that he could not help but respond in a predetermined fashion to various environmental stimuli (i.e. external circumstances) and THEN God determined what those stimuli would be for each person… Kind of like the “if/then” program logic of a computer, or like a dog who has no ability to act in a manner contrary to the way his innate instincts determine he should act when faced with a given stimulus (instincts that God actively placed there when He created the dog).

    Either way, God is the ONLY one in the universe who has ANY appreciable or meaningful CHOICE. And that means that GOD is the ONLY sinner in the universe. And, you know what, Matt? I think you agree with me.

    Because, what you just said to Robert is that you believe the evil that exists in this world is “good-evil.” Why would you say that unless, on some level deep down, you realize that the god you believe in is, in fact, the author of sin and evil? But, you don’t take that to it’s logical conclusion (i.e. that, if God is the author of evil, then He Himself must be unholy and evil). You’re not that truthful, lol.

    Instead, you avoid the disgust and horror that should naturally arise from the idea that God authored evil by telling yourself that evil is, in a sense, “good” because it’s necessary to accomplish God’s ultimate purpose.

    Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
    Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
    Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
    Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
    And clever in their own sight!

    The problem with your theory is God does NOT need sin and evil to accomplish His purposes. You mentioned Joseph. God didn’t need Joseph’s brothers to kidnap him and throw him in a pit in order to get Joseph to Egypt. He ALLOWED them to do that because it ultimately served His purpose. God knew Ruben would protect Joseph from actually being killed and He knew Judah would come up with the idea of selling him. God probably even intervened in such a way as to ensure the Ishmaelite caravan and Midianite traders would come along at just the right moment, creating the perfect opportunity for the guys to sell Joseph. None of that requires that God intended their evil actions. So why did Joseph say “What you meant for evil, God meant for good”?

    He said that because God INTENDED Joseph to end up in Egypt; not because He intended Joseph’s brothers to sin. God didn’t need them to sin. He could have gotten Joseph to Egypt in many different ways without predetermining evil. One way is to simply call Joseph to Egypt, same way He called Abram to Canaan. If Joseph refused, God could have persuaded him by other means (maybe a storm or a big fish, like He persuaded Jonah). God neither causes, nor needs, nor desires evil to take place in order for His will to get accomplished.

    Not even for the crucifixion. Did God intend for people to sin? No. But He did intend that there would be a sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. He sent the Son into the world, knowing that, once Satan realized who He was, he would instigate the crucifixion. It served God’s purpose, so He let it happen. He even helped it happen by hardening Israel, which He could justly do in reaction to centuries of their willful rebellion. But if the Israelites had excepted Jesus as Messiah, the Romans would have killed Him as a rival to Caesar. Or if the Romans had also accepted Him, then maybe God would have commanded the Israelites to sacrifice the Son same way He commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. He DOESN’T NEED sin and evil. But He allows it, works with it, even redeems it if, it accomplishes His ultimate purpose to do so.

    You also said to Robert that we have a hard time explaining the existence of purposeless evil. But I answered you on that and you ignored my answer. I said: (1) YOU have a problem with the existence of purposeless evil, but there’s not BIBLICAL reason why this is problematic; and (2) Nevertheless, what I ACTUALLY believe is that God created man with autonomous will. We created evil (not God, which is why God is innocent). God allows certain evil acts to occur for a purpose. He disallows other evil acts for a purpose. But, since He neither intended, decreed, caused, or needed evil to take place, He can GENUINELY lament it and JUSTLY condemn it. I added that you yourself try and affirm these things whilst simultaneously affirming exhaustive determinism which is totally inconsistent.

    You had no answer for that and yet you claim I’m then one not answering.

    Like I said, I don’t answer you in a way that conforms to your presuppositions and theological systematic. But that doesn’t mean I’m not answering you at all. It’s disingenuous of you to say so, but as I’ve said before, I’ve learned to expect that from Calvinists.

    God bless!

    1. Amyra,

      You continue to make some really great and strong points against calvinism: keep up the good work!
      🙂

      Just one little quick clarification: you state that “God created man with autonomous will ” And that as a result of this we created evil. I agree with you, sin is created and orginated by men and angels, not God. Which goes a long way to explaining the presence of evil in our world. I believe by “autonomous will” you simply mean that we are created with an independent will, our own will. Each of us has the capacity to have and make our own choices for reasons in light of what is important to us. In other words you are merely stating you believe in the ordinary understanding of “free will”.

      Not the erroneous compatibilist understandig which assumes exhaustive determinism (in this case as we are deaing with theological determinism/calvinism, which posits that God determines all events by means of his decrees and his controlling all events completely, directly, and continuously) is “compatible” with free will (which is then redefined away from the ordinary understanding to a much more limited concept of free will where we are acting freely when we do what we want and are not coerced in our choices).

      I ask this because many calvinists will then run with the word “autonomous” and start saying things like: so you think you can do anything (No, that is confusing free will with omnipotence, and we certainly are not omnipotent!). Or, so you think that your will can never be hindered under any circumstance even if God has purposed something contrary to your will (no, that is confusing free will with sovereignty, we are not sovereign our plans can be interupted, eliminated, overwhelmed, etc. and God is sovereign so his purposes can never be thrawted). Or, you must mean that your will is not influenced by other wills, your own nature (no, we are influenced by lots of factors when choosing, what is not happening if we are choosing freely is that our choice is not necessitated, it is not determined by someone or something else besides us).

      I just could not resist saying these things Amyra as I believe you hold to the ordinary understanding of free will, technically called libertarian free will, when you use the phrase “autonomous will”. I just wanted to preempt any calvinists from launching into any of their common misrepresentations and caricatures. They seem addicted to that! 🙂

  36. Amyra Batya writes, “Nevertheless, what I ACTUALLY believe is that God created man with autonomous will.”

    There is no Scriptural basis for this belief. To have an autonomous will, a person would have to be free of God’s control and this necessarily denies that God is sovereign.

    There is Scriptural support for concluding that people have wills and exercise their wills to sin. To conclude that people have autonomous wills is a significant leap and not justified – it essentially makes people independent gods.

  37. RHutchin,

    //There is no Scriptural basis for this belief//

    FALSE.

    1. Jesus says plainly that, though He WANTED to gather the children of Israel to Himself, they were UNWILLING. The Sovereign Lord Himself laments: “…I WANTED… But you were UNWILLING…”

    Matthew 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

    2. Here the Pharisees reject GOD’S PURPOSE for them by not being baptized.

    Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.”

    3. Why Does God bother stretching out His arms to Israel if He already decreed they wouldn’t come? Is He just exercising His arms?

    Romans 10:21 “But as for Israel He says, ‘All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'”

    4. Again, Sovereign Lord pleads with His people to do the right thing, not only for their sake, but because He doesn’t want to have to destroy them. If He already “secretly decreed” their disobedience, why is He saying these things? To exercise His mouth? Does God say things in vain? Is God a disingenuous hypocrite?

    Ezekiel 18:30 “‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Therefore, repent and live.’”

    5. Again, why does God behave as if we have a genuine choice if we really don’t? Why ask Israel to choose if He already decided? To explain why God repeatedly behaves as if man has autonomous choice, Calvinist often claim God is double-minded (i.e. He possesses two wills). But, where does the BIBLE mention a “secret decree” by which God desires and ordains the exact OPPOSITE of what He CLAIMS He desires? To believe Calvinism is clearly to believe God is a disingenuous hypocrite whose word is meaningless.

    Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So CHOOSE life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”

    6. Here Jesus says plainly that if Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom had seen the miracles done in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum they would have repented, which is why they won’t be punished as severely as those latter cities. If, as Calvinists claim, the former cities COULD NOT have done differently because of God’s “decree,” then why would Jesus say they WOULD have done differently? Why does He go so far as to base their eternal punishment on it? Again, does God say things in vain? Does He not mean what He says?

    Matt 11:20 “Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.'”

    7. If God had “secretly decreed” Nineveh’s repentance, why’d He bother to threaten them with calamity? Again, is He just exercising His tongue? Is this a game for His amusement? Does He actually mean what He says or does He say things in vain?

    Jonah 3:10 “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.”

    8. Same here. God says He PLANS calamity on a nation, but will RELENT from that plan IF they turn away from evil. Then He says He PROMISES to bless a nation, but He will REPENT of that blessing if that nation does evil. Over and over and over, God behaves as if we have an autonomous choice and claims He wants us to make the right one. But, if Calvinism is true, and God already made the choice for us, then none of these verses make any sense. Most of the Bible ends up being a sham.

    Jeremiah 18:7 “At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; 8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will 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 build up or to plant it; 10 if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.”

    1. You claimed that people had “autonomous” will. Your citations only support the conclusion of a free will, not necessarily autonomous. Whether man’s will is libertarian and contra-causal is debatable. The Bible tells us that man is a slave to sin and God allows people free reign within the constraints imposed by Him – by analogy, as a dog in a fenced yard is constrained by the fence but free to do as it pleases within the boundaries imposed by the fence.

      When God presents choices to people, it does not mean that people are inherently free to act. God may present people with choices for the purpose of exposing their sinful inclinations and to demonstrate the truth of His word – There is none that seeks God. All must be viewed in context with everything God tells us.

      However, the end result is the same: for man to have autonomous free will, God cannot be sovereign.

  38. Robert,

    Thank you 🙂 Yes, I meant libertarian free will, and I actually prefer to say libertarian will to avoid confusion. There’s so many terms being tossed around that sometimes you can start borrowing terms you don’t normally use and rolling with them without thinking, lol.

    Also, I reread the conversation the other night and was embarrassed to realize that, yes, I did ignore a lot of what Matt was saying without even realizing it. I owe him an apology for that, but I wasn’t doing it to be a jerk (admittedly, I was saying other things to be a jerk, but I wasn’t ignoring him out of sheer jerkishness 😛 ). And I think I did it because to me all that high-philosophy stuff is meaningless.

    I was basically tuning those parts of his discourse out (kinda like on those Peanuts cartoons, when the teachers or parents are talking, and all you just hear is: “blah, blah, bl-blah…”), lolol. Maybe kinda childish, but I’m a very simple person. Even though I’m a Ph.D. student, I never was the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I don’t believe I should have to be in order to understand my Lord God.

    He wrote His word and made things simple for me. He told me He is LOVE. That He loves me and wants me to choose Him and live! Why can’t I just take His simple words at face value, believe Him, and be satisfied? Why can’t we all do that?

    Why should someone go into how they THINK God’s knowledge and intention cause (determine?) His creation, and how He originated, but was far removed, from evil, and blah, blah, blah… when no human being can possibly know how God reasons, how His knowledge works, the nature of eternity, etc? Why would anyone have the hubris to think they could explain God’s internal process?

    When Calvinists try to do that, I assume they’re purposely creating a long-winded smoke screen to avoid the real issues, and I accuse them of being dishonest. It also frustrates me, to have someone bury me under an avalanche of what to me seems like useless reasonings, instead of saying simply and straight-forwardly: “Yes, I believe God is the source and originator of evil, but I still think He’s good.”

    Because, for me, that’s the bottom line. It’s the only thing that matters to me in this debate: Is God good or is He evil? If God is good, then He is the God I know and love. If He’s evil, then by definition He can’t be God. And, I think if sin and evil desires originated from the heart and mind of God, then God can’t be good, so therefore He can’t be God.

    If man has no libertarian free will, then WHO put the evil desires in his heart? He can’t have done it himself. HOW did the evil thoughts get there? Exactly? And if God is the one who decided and made certain man would think and act in evil ways, such that man could not help but think and act as God determined, how can God not be the REAL author and father of sin, lies, and confusion?

  39. Amyra,

    I thought you were done with the conversation, but apparently not. The reason I didn’t give another full response to everything you wrote in my last comment was because you said you were done, and I didn’t want to continue beating a dead horse by repeating the same things I had already repeated several times that remained unaddressed. Accusing me of cherry picking the beginning of your sentence without dealing with what you actually wrote is laughable. I didn’t think I needed to copy and paste entire paragraphs of bare assertions and statements that beg the question that had no reasoned arguments to back them up but were intended to somehow refute the arguments that I presented. You began your last comment in the same way.

    After continually pointing out that you had not interacted with the arguments I presented and continued to put words in my mouth that I never said, I told you, “Telling yourself that you already know it all and understand it better than they do isn’t helping anyone, and the main person who is being hurt by it is you”. Your response was, “I’d say the same to you, dear 🙂 You don’t know how God’s knowledge works, you don’t know exactly how autonomous will works, nobody knows these things for certain…and pretending you do is nothing more than pompous arrogance that serves absolutely no one”.

    Now let’s examine your response. I had previously used the Law of Causation to explain that if nothing is eternal other than God and part of God’s very essence is His perfect exhaustive knowledge, then that knowledge is necessarily uncaused. I also explained how knowledge of how God should and would act and the intent to act were the cause of God’s action (something that is still lost on you as shown by your last comment). I had also explained how autonomous will violated the Law of Causation whether you thought it was something that played into our thought process or worked independently of our thought processes when making a decision. You didn’t address any of this. Instead you made the bare assertions “You don’t know how God’s knowledge works, you don’t know exactly how autonomous will works, nobody knows these things for certain” and then proceeded to call me pompous and arrogant.

    Now let’s look at another example from your previous comment since that is the one I am accused of cherry picking from. Here is the full quote of mine that you partially quoted and then pretended to respond to:

    “You claim that there is no difference between God directly planting evil in someone’s heart and God knowing that the nature of that person and the circumstances surrounding them (which will result in an evil desire) will eventually be effectuated as a result of His far removed good actions. I would agree that there is no difference in the outcome either way. That person’s evil desires and actions are just as determined in both cases, but the actions of God are vastly different. In one case God is directly working evil, but in the other case all of God’s actions are good and His intention for the evil happening is to perfectly achieve His good purposes. I’ve explained this already. The two propositions: “All of God’s actions are good” and “Some of God’s actions are not good” (a universal affirmative and particular negative with the same subjects and predicates) are by logical definition contradictory. Yet you see no difference?”

    I had previously pointed out this difference saying, “I can’t force you to acknowledge the difference, but it is a real difference.” To which you responded, “No there isn’t. If man has no free will. Then his thoughts and intentions could only come from God.” This ignored what I had explained about God creating man very good but mutably good because man was not omniscient and could change by taking in new information and even false information. Does any of that ring a bell?

    Now here is what you wrote in response to the paragraph I quoted above: “FALSE. I said you obfuscate to escape the moral implications of your beliefs. That’s exactly what you’re doing right now. If Calvinism is true. God caused evil desires. That means He acted. He didn’t sit back and passively allow evil to come into man’s heart. Nor did the desires occur simply because God knew they would. Mere knowledge doesn’t cause anything. Man has no autonomous will of his own, so he could not have created the evil desires in himself. Thus, God must have acted to make certain man would have evil desires that he could not help but act upon. And if that’s the case, then God is evil. Not man. I realize YOU don’t want to see it that way, but to me this is crystal clear and logically inescapable.”

    Your first two sentences are, “FALSE. I said you obfuscate to escape the moral implications of your beliefs. That’s exactly what you’re doing right now.” How is this supposed to answer the paragraph you quoted from my comment? I said there is a real difference and you said “No there isn’t”. I went so far as to demonstrate using the rules of propositions that you were claiming that there was no difference between two contradictory propositions. You simply made an accusation about the moral implications of my beliefs which once again ignored everything I explained about how God intended and determined that evil actions would take place while never doing anything evil Himself or working in anyone’s heart to plant an evil desire. I have also explained how His intentions must be pure and the evil He determines must be necessary for accomplishing the greater good in the best possible way. None of my arguments have been addressed, only denied and sometimes accompanied by statements of what you believe that ignore all my previous arguments demonstrating that what you believe is illogical and inconsistent.

    Your response goes on, “If Calvinism is true. God caused evil desires. That means He acted. He didn’t sit back and passively allow evil to come into man’s heart. Nor did the desires occur simply because God knew they would. Mere knowledge doesn’t cause anything. Man has no autonomous will of his own, so he could not have created the evil desires in himself”. You both ignore what I previously said and put words in my mouth to misrepresent me. I have said that God is the far removed primary cause of all things including evil desires and actions. They can be causally traced back to God’s good actions which in turn are traced back to His eternal knowledge and intention to act and through those actions bring about all the effects that play out in causal sequence. I never said anything about passively allowing evil to come into man’s heart. The desires occurred because God knew and intended to act in a way that would result in a mutably good man, who was told the truth, to later be presented with a lie that he would believe. As a result we are now all fallen and desire evil when we are presented with external circumstances that give us opportunity to sin.

    You then draw the conclusion, “Thus, God must have acted to make certain man would have evil desires that he could not help but act upon. And if that’s the case, then God is evil. Not man”. Yes I believe God acted in good ways with pure intentions to accomplish the ultimate good in the perfect way and those actions made certain that man would have evil desires. By ignoring everything I have written about that as well as what I have said about why man is accountable for his sins, you then make the huge logical leap to saying that God is evil and not man.

    These are bare assertions that you pretended answered my argument. My argument went totally unaddressed, and your assertions were nothing but affirmations and denials of things I had already explained. My previous explanations that refuted your assertions were ignored, and you misrepresented me by putting words in my mouth about “passively allowing”. Yet somehow I was only cherry picking and not addressing what you said. There was no real reasoned argument there to address, and as I said, I had already addressed your bare assertions before. You see how long a response to only two paragraphs of your non-responses is? I thought I could give three quick examples of what your comments are full of and you would understand what I was saying about bare assertions because after all you wrote them all. Instead you ignored the rest of the sentence where I gave the three quick quotes and called me a hypocrite. The rest of that sentence was, “but you have not once pointed out and demonstrated any point in what I wrote that was false”. That remains a true statement.

    I hope now you will understand if I don’t go through the rest of that long comment sentence by sentence to point out the obvious and restate at length what should have been understood by the one sentence that I wrote before. I’ll continue to respond to your most recent comment in another comment of my own since this one is too long already.

    God bless.

  40. Amyra,

    You say, “You know very well what I was trying to say was that God’s knowledge and intention, in and of themselves, don’t create anything. Same for people. You’re internal mental states don’t impact the world around you, but your ACTIONS do. In order for God to create, He can’t simply KNOW or INTEND, He must ACT.”

    Yes, I know very well what you are saying and that’s why I asked the question this was supposed to be a response to. God’s actions are effects of His knowledge of how He will act and His intention to act. This makes His knowledge and intentions the primary cause of all things that result from His actions. You claim that knowledge and intentions cause nothing, so I asked, “So actions are uncaused effects or maybe there is just no link between what I know I want to do and intend to do and what I actually do?” Both are pretty absurd ideas, but if you claim that knowledge and intentions cause nothing that’s what you’re left with. Knowledge of how you will act and intention to act causes action.

    You go on, “if man has no autonomous will, God must act (either directly or indirectly) to create evil in man’s heart, not merely “foreknow” that it will arise there”. Once again, I never said anything about mere foreknowledge. I’m talking about knowledge that is causally linked through many long lines of causal sequence making it the far removed primary cause. As I have pointed out many times, all of God’s actions are good, and the fact that through long lines of causal sequence evil desires arise in the hearts of fallen people isn’t accurately described by “God created evil in man’s heart”. The fact that God determined these sinful desires and actions through His good actions because they were necessary in perfectly achieving the ultimate good doesn’t make Him evil. It would make Him evil if He neglected to achieve the ultimate good by not ensuring that all the requirements for achieving it were met.

    You go on to say, “Because, what you just said to Robert is that you believe the evil that exists in this world is “good-evil.” Why would you say that unless, on some level deep down, you realize that the god you believe in is, in fact, the author of sin and evil? But, you don’t take that to it’s logical conclusion (i.e. that, if God is the author of evil, then He Himself must be unholy and evil). You’re not that truthful, lol.”

    You seem to once again ignore what I said about the difference between necessary and unnecessary evil. Later you will simply deny that any evil is necessary, but I’ll get to that when I come to it. I never said anything to the effect that evil is not evil. It is unquestionably evil on the part of the person who does it, but not on the part of God who determined it through secondary agency for good purposes. So quoting from Isaiah 5 about people who call their own evil good on their own behalf and the good of others evil has nothing at all to do with what I said. It would only sound like a legitimate argument to an unthinking person who heard the buzzwords good and evil and without any thought agreed that Isaiah was meaning to address what I was talking about.

    You keep insisting that I must believe that God is the author of evil. I understand where you’re coming from on that, but I really don’t think we would define the term “author of evil” the same way. God doesn’t shy away from taking credit for evil things that He intends to happen in scripture, but perhaps we should look at a specific type of evil. I’m sure you would agree that lying is evil. Titus1:2 says God cannot lie, and Heb.6:18 says, “it is impossible for God to lie”. You do agree with me that God doesn’t lie don’t you? But He does act through means and secondary agency so that people will be lied to and believe lies. 2Thes.2 talks about the lawless one who will work lying signs and wonders by the power of Satan. Verse 11 says, “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” I’m not interested in hearing why you think God is justified in doing this. My point is that the God who cannot sin or lie is causing people to believe a lie being presented through secondary agents. 2Chr.18:18-22 tells of God sending a spirit to lie to Ahab’s prophets. Verse 22 says, “Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you.” Again, God doesn’t lie, but through secondary agents He makes sure King Ahab is lied to. Would you call God the author of lies? Lying is evil, so does his involvement through secondary agents make Him the author of evil? I don’t refer to Him using that term. If you don’t refer to Him that way either or follow it to your own “logical conclusion” that He is unholy and evil, then you should stop saying that I should.

    I’ll address the subject of Joseph and your denial of necessary evil in a separate comment. God bless.

    1. Matt Mayo writes, “God’s actions are effects of His knowledge of how He will act and His intention to act. This makes His knowledge and intentions the primary cause of all things that result from His actions.”

      I believe the standard Calvinist view is the God’s knowledge is knowledge of all He decrees. Thus, God decides what He will do (or how He will act as you have above) which are His decrees and that becomes His knowledge. God is a god of purpose and His decrees carry out His purpose – where God decrees that people exercise willful evil, it is because that evil (e.g., the crucifixion of Christ) is the means to the end that is His purpose.

      I don’t think it is correct to say “This makes His knowledge and intentions the primary cause of all things that result from His actions.” Unless, by “primary cause,” you mean both active (e.g., impregnating Mary) and passive (e.g., not acting to prevent the stoning of Stephen) decrees by God.

  41. Amyra,

    You begin your attempt to address the story of Joseph with the bare assertion “The problem with your theory is God does NOT need sin and evil to accomplish His purposes”. Later you will add some speculation to your assertion about other ways in which God could have accomplished His purposes without any sin. This all ignores things I have previously written. Most recently in my comment to Robert I said:

    “I assume we both agree that God has perfect and exhaustive knowledge. That knowledge would necessarily include things like what a Being such as Himself should accomplish and how He should act to accomplish what He should in the best possible way. Having both the perfect knowledge and the power to act out what He knows He should do, is it possible that He would do anything other than what would achieve His ultimate purposes in the best possible way? Wouldn’t any action that worked in any way less than the best way be the wrong way for God who knows that it isn’t the best way and has the power to act in the best way? I think it is safe to conclude that all of God’s perfections ensure that He always acts perfectly.”

    God’s knowledge and character require that He always acts in the best possible way to accomplish ALL of His purposes in the best possible way. If God were to act in a way that was not the absolute best way for accomplishing His good purposes there would be something wrong. He knows what is best, He has the power to do what is best, but for some reason He would have intentionally not done it. Wouldn’t the intentional doing of something that prevented the accomplishment of what is perfect be wrong? By doing something other than what is absolutely best God would be preventing the accomplishment of the perfect and therefore be wrong. That is unthinkable.

    The most literal translation of Gen.50:20 would be “you intended against me evil, but God intended it for good”. The verb for intended is the same in both cases here and in reference to the same thing. What did the brothers intend? Evil. What did God intend? Evil but for good. The context is clear what is being talked about here. After the death of Jacob, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that he would take his revenge on them for what? “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the EVIL that we did to him.” (v.15) “Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the TRANSGRESSION of your brothers and their SIN, because they did EVIL to you” (v.17). It is true that getting Joseph to Egypt was part of God’s perfect plan, but the brothers’ intention was not for “Joseph to end up in Egypt”. This verse is speaking of what both God and Joseph’s brothers intended and it is clearly stated that it is the evil they did to him.

    You acknowledge that God sometimes prevents evil for a purpose and given what I wrote above about God bringing about the perfect, if this evil wasn’t necessary in the accomplishment of all of God’s perfect purposes shouldn’t He have prevented it? If all of His purposes could have been accomplished in the best way without evil and the involvement of evil was less than perfect wouldn’t God be wrong in allowing it? Even if there were more than one way to accomplish all of God’s purposes with equal perfection wouldn’t the way where someone isn’t the victim of evil be by definition better because it didn’t involve evil?

    Another point I want to make is that while the purpose of saving many people from starvation is explicitly stated, this is not the only purpose God had in all of this. We have no way of knowing all the details of all that these events accomplished, but we do some. Ps. 105 traces the story beyond Joseph mentioning Jacob coming to Egypt and the Israelites growing fruitful there. Verse 25 says, “He turned their [the Egyptians] hearts to hate His people, to deal craftily with his servants” (so much for the protests that God wouldn’t do that). The point is that God’s purposes go far beyond just saving people from starvation at that time. He was setting up the enslavement of His people for His great demonstrations of power in the exodus. The psalmist goes on to talk about that too.

    Also all your examples of what God could have done not only were obviously not the perfect way for God to do things, all the Christological typology in the story of Joseph would have been lost. He wouldn’t have been seized by His own people. He wouldn’t have been betrayed for silver. He wouldn’t have been turned over to foreigners. He wouldn’t have been condemned for his righteousness. He wouldn’t have been raised up and been set at the right hand of the king, and he wouldn’t have been given all authority and power over the kingdom. You see how God was working this all out very meticulously?

    You can also take all that and apply it to Acts4:27-28. There was no possible way that any of the scenarios you mentioned could have taken place because: 1) They obviously wouldn’t have accomplished all of God’s purposes perfectly, and 2) Verse 27 says that all the sinful people involved were gathered together to do what God had predestined to take place. The verb συνήχθησαν which means “they were gathered” is passive to put the emphasis of their coming together for that purpose on God and not their volitional choices made out of self-interest in each of their roles.

    As for unnecessary evil, you really didn’t answer that. You just claimed that I have a problem, denied that you have a problem, and said that you believe that God created man and man created evil as though that answered the question. Let me put it to you this way: A broken hearted mother, who’s child was raped and murdered, comes to you asking questions. She wants to know how God could let this happen. She asks if God knew about it ahead of time. She says, “couldn’t He have stopped it?” and “If He knew what that sicko was going to do to my child and had the power to prevent it, why did He choose to allow him to do that?” Answers about giving man autonomy aren’t going to go over too well for someone who asks questions. The fact remains that God knew beforehand and could have stopped it. If your answer rests on autonomous free will, it boils down to claiming that the free will of the pedophile/killer was more important to God than the life of the child and his or her will to live and not be raped and it accomplished nothing good that couldn’t have been accomplished without it having happened. You may not like the Compatibilist’s answer to evil, but I think yours is illogical, disgusting, and insulting to God.

    BTW, I think if we understand what it means for God to lament evil for what it is in itself there is no problem. He doesn’t go through emotional mood swings every time something good or bad happens in creation because it took Him by surprise. Remember He knew it all eternally. As for Him being just in condemning people for doing evil, I think I’ve explained before that the fact that the people are doing exactly what they want to do and have no idea what God has or hasn’t decreed is plenty to hold them accountable. If they say, “If I do this it only proves that God intended for me to do it” it is also true that if they don’t do whatever it is that it proves God didn’t intend for them to do it. God’s decree can’t be an excuse for any action on the part of the person doing it because they can do exactly what they want to do. God judges them for doing what they wanted, and if that doesn’t sound like what we want to hear then we should probably reexamine our view of God. We are His creations made for His purposes. He has said that He has made the wicked for the day of disaster (Proverbs 16:4) and prepared vessels of wrath for destruction (Rm.9:22). Does the potter not have authority over the clay to make what He wants (Rm.9:21, Is.45:9)?

    Another way to look at it is this: Can God be anything other than good? Could He sin or be evil? As I’ve already mentioned, God can’t lie (Tit.1:2). It is impossible for God to lie (Heb.6:18). Of course He has the natural ability to do whatever, but He lacks the moral ability to do evil or lie (or do anything less than perfect as I’ve been saying). Does He deserve praise for His goodness and truthfulness? I believe He does. If you believe He deserves praise for His goodness and truthfulness, although He couldn’t have done otherwise, then why don’t you think He should give people what they deserve for their evil?

    God bless.

    1. Matt,

      You continue to present stuff that is almost unbelieveable (and yet it **is** believeable because you are consistent with the false premises of calvinism). You finally stop trying to sound like some sort of philosopher regaling us with your presumed philosophicl sophistication and pull the gloves off and reveal your real emotions with: “You may not like the Compatibilists’s answer to evil, but I think your is illogical, disgusting and insulting to God.” Guess what Matt? That is exactly what non-calvinists think of your theology regarding evil (that God preplans and ensures that every sin and evil occurs exaclty as God preplanned it, that God predetermines the evil desires that people have and then blames them for doing and being exactly what the divine puppet master predestined them to be and do; that all evils are not contingent and a result of free will but are necessary, etc.). Your mistaken theology on evil maligns the character of God: makes him appear as Roger Olson and others have pointed out, worse than the devil in his character. Now of course his actual character is impeccable and he is the greatest persons in so many wonderful ways. But that is not the problem, the problem is the calvinistic conception of how God relates to evil, it is this conception that maligns the true character of God. This is particularly sad as this false conception of how God interacts with evil comes from professing believers like Matt. We expect atheists to try to malign the character of God, we don’t expect this to come from people supposedly “on our side.” My own theory about people like Matt is that somewhere in their life they experienced some trial or difficutly or disappointment in which they just cannot believe that God would allow this to happen to them. So they have to come up with some sort of explanation in which not only is this event to be expected from God: it is also necessary. Since it is necessary it had to be that way, and so they can comfort themselves that the evil that occurred to them or one of their loved ones **is God’s will** is exactly what God wanted to happen. These folks just cannot believe, refuse to believe, find it absolutely unaccepatble that God could create a world where this evil occurred and was not purposed by God, not necessary to his plan. So they, like Matt create these philosophical/theological arguments to justify and rationalize all evil as necessary evil as “God’s will”.

      Matt brings up the example of the mother whose child was raped and who might ask why God allowed this “sicko” to do this to my child, to not prevent it. Matt conveniently forgets that if this person **is** a “sicko” that is exaclty what God predestined him to be! In Matt’s theology of evil God preplanned the rape, preplanned the sicko to be a sicko and to do sicko things: God meticulously preplanned all of it. and there is no reason for God to prevent it because God himself predestined this evil event. Speaking of God preventing or allowing an event to occur only makes sense in a world where things have not been meticulously preplanned/predestined. If God predestined the rape then he is not going to prevent it. The only situation where God could and would prevent a rape is if he had not predestined every event. So the women’s question about why didn’t God prevent it only makes sense if Matt’s calvinism is false. I find it interesting that Matt says of this person that they are a “sicko”: because again if Matt’s theology of evil is correct then this so-called “sicko” is exacltly what God predetermined for him to be. Earlier in this thread we talked about homosexuals. If Matt’s theology is correct then God made every homosexual to be and do exactly what they are and do: in that case the homosexual is absolutey correct to say that God made me to be like this. Matt is so intent to justify and rationalize his false theology that he forgets what it leads to if true: whatever any of us is, is exactly what God made us to be (no exceptions). So the homosexaul is what God made them to be. The “sicko” of Matt’s own example is what God made them to be. Etc. ETc. Try telling this TRUTH of calvinism to that grieving mother. Matt’s view has things so fixed and determined that evil doer and the evil they do is all God’s fault. If we went to a puppet show where the puppet master controlled the puppets every move as they moved and acted on the stage. If one of these puppets did actions to murder someone in the audience, would we hold the puppet responsible? Would we say of the puppet? You murderer! No, we would fix full blame on the puppet master, and so we should. The calvinist like Matt wants God to be controlling people the way the puppet master controls his puppets (that is compatibilism for you): and yet when the puppets do wrong, do evil, murder, or if they are “sickos”, they then want to turn aroound and blame the puppet, they want to hold the puppet responsible and at the same time claim the puppet master is not the sicko not the murderer, when in fact if the puppets **are completely controlled** by the puppet master then the whatever the puppets do or are is exactly what the puppet master made them to be, controlled them to be. Which theology of evil is illogical, disgusting and an insult to God? The one where we blame the puppet for their actions and what they are, rather than the puppet master.

  42. Matt,

    I really don’t care how you THINK God’s creative process works, how you THINK His knowledge works, etc. You don’t know any of that, it’s nothing but vain reasonings. And the law of causation doesn’t prove Calvinism, so give it a rest already.

    If you want to keep talking with me, you’re gonna pull your head out of the clouds, come down to earth and speak in practical terms.

    A man likes to bugger sheep.

    1. The man has no free will, so HOW did these desires get into his heart?

    2. How do these acts of buggery glorify God and further His plans?

    No more long-winded crap. Keep it short and simple.

    1. Amyra,

      Your “buggar” the sheep made me think, are there any biblical passages where people do bad things where God claims He is doing something at the same time through those bad acts. I thought of Habakkuk. In Ch. 1 it says as Habakkuk asks “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?”

      “5 “Look among the nations, and see;
      wonder and be astounded.
      For I am doing a work in your days
      that you would not believe if told.
      6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
      that bitter and hasty nation,
      who march through the breadth of the earth,
      to seize dwellings not their own.
      7 They are dreaded and fearsome;
      their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
      8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
      more fierce than the evening wolves;
      their horsemen press proudly on.
      Their horsemen come from afar;
      they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
      9 They all come for violence,
      all their faces forward.
      They gather captives like sand.
      10 At kings they scoff,
      and at rulers they laugh.
      They laugh at every fortress,
      for they pile up earth and take it.
      11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
      guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

      So who’d did these bad things? The Chaldeans or God?

      Or in Acts 4,

      ““Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[d] said by the Holy Spirit,

      “‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
      and the peoples plot in vain?
      26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
      and the rulers were gathered together,
      against the Lord and against his Anointed’[e]—
      27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

      So who did this? God or “Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel?”

      1. Les,

        Clearly, God did it. And God rapes little children, too. -sarcasm-

        What you’re proposing sounds like the “equal ultimacy” that even RC Sproul Sr rejects as blasphemous heresy. Even if God *uses* sinful people, that doesn’t mean He Himself is *doing* the acts. Even most Calvinists totally reject that kind of wording, even though this pretty much starts putting holes in their boat.

        Only if God is NOT the micromanagerial scriptwriter of all things that come to pass, can He be not blameworthy and guilty of being the efficient cause of sin.

        To explain why these verses don’t mean God is doing evil: God gives people freedom to make choices. God also retrains evil from godly people whom He is protecting (such as the nation of Israel). He told Israel quite plainly that if they followed Him, He would bless them, and if they didn’t judgment would come down. Sometimes this was agricultural, sometimes it was political, and sometimes it was through invading forces.

        Notice how many people still hate the Jews? God doesn’t make them hate them. God doesn’t even want them to hate them. God doesn’t need them to hate them. But if God wants to send judgment upon them, He can lift His hand of restraint and they will accomplish acts of judgment upon Israel. But then – because they chose for themselves the hatred they possessed before God allowed them to execute it – God rightly judges them. There is nothing complicated or confusing about any of this.

        Only the twisted indoctrination of a flawed philosophy would so twist people’s minds to think that God’s permission = God’s causation. It’s amazing how dedicated you are to defending the philosophical idea that God determines all evil, to the point you are willing to defame God’s character in order to defend your philosophy. Then, when people show what you are saying, you quickly obfuscate it.

      2. MikeC, and bad sarcasm at that.

        “Even if God *uses* sinful people, that doesn’t mean He Himself is *doing* the acts.”

        Did I say God was doing evil acts? Where so I can issue a correction.

        “Only the twisted indoctrination of a flawed philosophy would so twist people’s minds to think that God’s permission = God’s causation.” I agree since I didn’t say such.

        “It’s amazing how dedicated you are to defending the philosophical idea that God determines all evil, to the point you are willing to defame God’s character in order to defend your philosophy.”

        It’s amazing how you can be so wrong so many times in a short post.

        “Then, when people show what you are saying, you quickly obfuscate it.” Prove what you accuse of.

    2. Amyra Batra writes, “A man likes to bugger sheep.

      1. The man has no free will, so HOW did these desires get into his heart?

      2. How do these acts of buggery glorify God and further His plans?”

      In answer to (1) Jeremiah tells us that the heart is desperately wicked. Thus, the heart has the capacity to devise its own evil. Paul tells us in Romans that man is a slave to sin. Thus, sinful acts are natural thoughts of the heart enslaved to sin. Satan is also an influence as it was Satan who entered Judas leading to his betrayal of Jesus.

      In answer to (2), we read of God’s plan to judge the nations and each individual. God’s acts of judgment glorify Himself. By decreeing that man act freely to pursue that sin he entertains in his heart, God thereby prepares man for judgment and such judgment is ultimately for God’s glory.

  43. Bleah… Matt starts off his last post saying, “You begin your attempt to address the story of Joseph with the bare assertion “The problem with your theory is God does NOT need sin and evil to accomplish His purposes”.”

    Now, Matt will most likely try to obfuscate his way around this, but clearly the position he is lobbying for is that God DOES need sin and evil to give His best. Thus, God is dependent upon sin in order to give good things. It’s clear within Matt’s world, a sort of strange metaphysically necessary dualism exists. Thus:

    That’s weird and biblical and shrieks against the united opinion of the church for the first 350 years of its existence.

    To say “God redeems evil people,” or “God responds to evil events and turns them to good,” yes. But that’s entirely different from what Matt is arguing for in his very long winded foray’s into trying to make evil sound good. Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil! Package your vile theology in whatever lofty terms you want, and put whatever makeup you want on the pig. It is an ugly and foreign philosophy to the purity of our holy Father.

    All your illustrations of alternate views reveal you have a shallow understanding of libertarian free will. I’d encourage you to read the works of Irenaeus (170AD), Justin Martyr (150AD), and especially Tertullian (200AD) – particularly in “Against Celsus,” Book II, wherein he deconstructs your flawed notions as pagan philosophy and presents the Christian understanding of why, “If God is good, and powerful, and prescient”, why does he not stop evil? The fact the Christian community forcefully responded to your objections in writing over 1800 years ago should tell you something.

    You approach the issue of this problem of evil by saying it is no problem at all: God simply is not good in the way everything thinks of the word “Good.” Your continual gnawing at the word ‘good’, and your attempt to import paganized philosophy into Christian thought, has left you with nothing but sophistry and an appalling diversion from the witness of the Church over centuries. Such harmful redefinitions are responsible for the violence that has been offered in God’s name ever since Augustine – the importer of this Manichean nonsense – also offered justification for such violence. It’s no surprise John Calvin turned to violence as well in beheading, burning, and torturing his detractors. It tends to follow when the image of God is one in which evil is necessary for the greater good, and is therefore good in and of itself.

    Tertullian:

    “Now then, ye dogs, whom the apostle puts outside, and who yelp at the God of truth, let us come to your various questions. These are the bones of contention, which you are perpetually gnawing! “If God is good, and prescient of the future, and able to avert evil, why did He permit man, the very image and likeness of Himself, and, by the origin of his soul, His own substance too, to be deceived by the devil, and fall from obedience of the law into death? For if He had been good, and so unwilling that such a catastrophe should happen, and prescient, so as not to be ignorant of what was to come to pass, and powerful enough to hinder its occurrence, that issue would never have come about, which should be impossible under these three conditions of the divine greatness. Since, however, it has occurred, the contrary proposition is most certainly true, that God must be deemed neither good, nor prescient, nor powerful. For as no such issue could have happened had God been such as He is reputed—good, and prescient, and mighty—so has this issue actually happened, because He is not such a God.”

    “In reply, we must first vindicate those attributes in the Creator which are called in question…”

    His argument continues here: http://st-takla.org/books/en/ecf/003/0030349.html

  44. Matt,

    P.S.

    1. On God sending strong delusion: hardening peoples hearts (i.e. strengthening their resolve) to stand strong in what they’ve already purposed in their hearts to believe is NOT the same thing as being the author and originator of lies. So that point fails.

    2. God using an evil spirit to entice a ruler is no different that Him using other types of evil. The spirit was a liar and God used him because it suited His purposes to do so. That’s not the same thing as being the author and originator of lies. So that point fails.

    3. //What did the brothers intend? Evil. What did God intend? Evil but for good//

    They intended to get rid of Joseph. God intended for Joseph to be in Egypt. You can get out the dictionary and extrapolate all you want (dictionaries don’t interpret scripture. Scripture interprets scripture), and there’s no BIBLICAL reason why anyone must assume God intended the sinful acts of Josephs brothers.

    4. //If all of His purposes could have been accomplished in the best way without evil and the involvement of evil was less than perfect wouldn’t God be wrong in allowing it?//

    I’m still waiting for a BIBLICAL reason why I should even care to answer the question, Matt. You’ve given me philosophical reasons why you think I SHOULD have a problem with the idea of “purposeless evil.” Where is your BIBLICAL reason?

    5. //He turned their [the Egyptians] hearts to hate His people, to deal craftily with his servants”//

    READ CONTEXT and tell me HOW God “turned their hearts”? Does it say He did it by supernaturally controlling their wills? Or by predetermining their hatred before the foundation of the earth??!! NO! He did it by blessing and favoring the Israelites more than the Egyptians. They were envious, Matt. Not irresistibly caused to hate.

    Psalm 105:23-24

    Israel also came into Egypt;
    Thus Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
    And He caused His people to be very fruitful,
    And made them stronger than their adversaries.

    So much for Calvy eisegesis! 😛

    6. //Also all your examples of what God could have done not only were obviously not the perfect way for God to do things, all the Christological typology in the story of Joseph would have been lost//

    Meh…the typology was prophetic. If men were gonna make different decisions, then the prophesies would have been different.

    7. //You can also take all that and apply it to Acts 4:27-28. There was no possible way that any of the scenarios you mentioned could have taken place because: 1) They obviously wouldn’t have accomplished all of God’s purposes perfectly, and 2) verse 27 says that all the sinful people involved were gathered together to do what God had predestined to take place//

    A) This business about “accomplishing all of God’s purposes perfectly” is NOT from the BIBLE. It’s from your philosophy. I have ZERO concern for satisfying the demands of your pet philosophy, Matt. Don’tchya get that by now? I couldn’t care LESS about that, so you might as well stop talking to me on those terms.

    B) Again, pulling out your dictionary and going to the Greek does NOTHING to prove that the Holy Spirit intended us all to understand that passage the way YOU do (in fact, if Calvinism is true, then He certainly didn’t intend for me to see it that way, since He obviously predestined me to see it differently, lol). God’s PURPOSE was a sacrifice and salvation. Not that people would sin.

    8. //Brokenhearted mother, who’s child was raped and murdered, comes to you asking questions. She wants to know how God could let this happen. She asks if God knew about it ahead of time. She says, “couldn’t He have stopped it?” and “If He knew what that sicko was going to do to my child and had the power to prevent it, why did He choose to allow him to do that?”//

    First, THANK YOU for the practical application. And here’s what I would say: I would remind her that God gave man free will so that we could freely choose Him and have a genuine loving relationship with Him. I would tell her that God NEVER wanted or intended such an evil thing to happen to her child. I would tell her I believe her child is safe in heaven, being comforted in the arms of Jesus. That, God will bring justice to the murderer. And, if she puts her faith in Christ, she will be reunited with her child again.

    And what will YOU tell her? Will you be HONEST with her about what you believe? Will you tell her you believe God “secretly decreed and intended” for her child to be raped and murdered? Will you tell her that God invented rape and murder, and took steps to make absolutely certain that her child fall victim? Will you tell her that her child may be BURNING IN HELL right now because she may not be “elect”?

    9. //I think if we understand what it means for God to lament evil for what it is in itself there is no problem//

    Of course it is, if He’s the the one who intended and rendered certain that evil would occur, then I’d say lamenting it would be pretty hypocritical.

    10. //I think I’ve explained before that the fact that the people are doing exactly what they want to do and have no idea what God has or hasn’t decreed is plenty to hold them accountable.//

    And I disagree. If God, not man, is the only one who has the power to choose (in any MEANINGFUL sense of the word “choose”). Man has no free will, and couldn’t help but do the evil God planned, intended, determined him to do, then YES that’s the PERFECT excuse to absolve man of moral responsibility. He may be “blameable,” but he isn’t morally “responsible” because he couldn’t have done any different.

    11. //He has said that He has made the wicked for the day of disaster (Proverbs 16:4) and prepared vessels of wrath for destruction (Rm.9:22). Does the potter not have authority over the clay to make what He wants (Rm.9:21, Is.45:9)?//

    A) He’s not saying He created people for hell. Go back and read Jeremiah 18, where He elaborates about the potter and the clay. It’s not about creating people for hell. It’s about reworking his plan based on the choices people make (Jer 18:7-12). Just like Romans 9 isn’t about choosing people for heaven or hell. It’s about God making His plan of salvation work IN SPITE of Israel’s willful disobedience.

    B) As for Proverbs 16:4, does it say God created people for the purpose of sending them to hell? NO. You’re reading that in, but that’s not what it SAYS. Here’s what I got from Adam Clark’s commentary:

    “Even the wicked for the day of evil – רעה ליום רשע וגם vegam rasha leyom raah . The whole verse is translated by the Chaldee thus: “All the works of the Lord are for those who obey him; and the wicked is reserved for the evil day.” As רעה raah literally signifies to feed, it has been conjectured that the clause might be read, yea, even the wicked he feeds by the day, or daily.

    “If we take the words as they stand in our present version, they mean no more than what is expressed by the Chaldee and Spriac: and as far as we can learn from their present confused state, by the Septuagint and Arabic, that “the wicked are reserved for the day of punishment.” Coverdale has given, as he generally does, a good sense: “The Lorde dotll all thinges for his owne sake; yea, and when he kepeth the ungodly for the daye of wrath.” He does not make the wicked or ungodly man; but when man has made himself such, even then God bears with him. But if he repent not, when the measure of his iniquity is filled up, he shall fall under the wrath of God his Maker” (StudyLight Commentary Website).

    God bless 😉

  45. Les,

    I already explained thoroughly in another comment that God’s purpose was that there would be a sacrifice, not that people would sin. The text doesn’t demand we believe God predestined their sinful actions. We know that God’s purpose, before the foundation of the world, was to bring salvation to mankind. HOW that happened, precisely, would depend on man’s choices, which of course, God foreknew and foretold. As I explained in the other comment, He didn’t need people to sin in order to do that.

    Also, “I am raising up the Chaldeans,” raising up means giving them power, strength. Just like He “raised up” Pharaoh with power and dominion. The text doesn’t say He predestined the Chaldeans’ brutal actions. They were enemies of Israel, and as punishment for Judah’s sins, God gave the Chaldeans strength to defeat them.

    But, as we see, sometimes when God uses one nation to punish another, the latter nation can GO TOO FAR, actually going beyond God’s intentions, as God says clearly here:

    Zechariah 1:15 “But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was ONLY A LITTLE angry, they FURTHERED the disaster.”

    1. Amyra,

      Thanks for replying. I apologize…I hadn’t seen your earlier comments. In any case we disagree. I think you and other non Calvinists just have to explain away the obvious teaching in Habakkuk and Acts 4 because passages like those seriously undermine your view of God. But I’m really done now. I had decided that your irrational responses, name calling (dishonest, liar) and emotionalism, were in my view, making conversing too difficult. No offense sister but I think that again.

      God bless.

      1. Hi Les, I hope you don’t mind my jumping in here! Isn’t is surprising that on a post dedicated to explaining why disagreements are often misrepresented on this issue, we can get so many “good” examples of that! 🙂 Here’s my take on Leighton’s list restating his reasons for misrepresentation –
        1) NOT EVERYONE IS CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH [Not Accepting disagreement with others]
        2) DEFINING THE TERMS [Not Discerning different meanings in their use of the same words]
        3) CORRECT BUT NOT PALATABLE [Not Looking past the emotions for the sake of edification]
        4) RATIONALIZATIONS AND LOGICAL IMPLICATIONS [Not Facing true logical fallacies when presented]
        5) NEFARIOUS MOTIVATIONS [Not Assuming the other wants to help us before discovering they may not]

        I would add a sixth – I don’t think we stick enough to discussing specific Scriptures that relate to either side of the issue!

        That is why I was jumping in here! I am glad you related the discussion to specific Scriptures! Ultimately is appears that you an Amyra agree that God can use evil for good purposes. But the Scriptures that need facing more I think are the ones that point to original sin (Satan, Adam, Ezek 28:15, Rom 5:12). Since God chose to create them good and with a free will, but previously ordained ONLY ONE choice for their expression of that will, so that they both had to sin, still seems to me to make God complicit in the origin of sin, much like a gangster boss planning a hit and making sure it is carried out by one of his henchman. Help me out of this thinking.

      2. Brian,

        Thanks for jumping in. Yes we have many good examples in these comments. 🙁

        You write, “Since God chose to create them good and with a free will, but previously ordained ONLY ONE choice for their expression of that will, so that they both had to sin, still seems to me to make God complicit in the origin of sin…”

        I think I would disagree with this, “so that they both had to sin.” Having been created perfect (innocent and sinless), they did not have to sin. But in fact they did sin, willfully. They were able not to sin, even if the required law keeping involved only one prohibition.

        Blessings brother.

      3. I think we have to agree with Brian that God was complicit in Adam/Eve’s sin. Reasons for this:

        1. Satan cannot enter the garden without God allowing him to so (per the example of Job or Satan asking to sift the disciples).
        2. By allowing Satan to enter the garden, God makes Satan His agent to tempt Adam/Eve (what other reason is there for Satan to be in the garden).
        3. God is present during the entire episode and could have intervened at any time to discuss the situation with Adam/Eve; He remained silent.
        4. Adam/Eve’s sin was necessary as Christ had already been slain for that sin.
        5. God exercises absolute sovereignty over His creation and nothing happens unless He has ordained it.
        6. God does not act without purpose and Adam/Eve’s sin is consistent with God’s purpose for His creation else God would not have permitted it.

      4. Rhutchin,

        “I think we have to agree with Brian that God was complicit in Adam/Eve’s sin.”

        I agree that “God was complicit in Adam/Eve’s sin” in the way you describe. I agree with the six points you make.

        That is not what I was disagreeing with re Brian here…”I think I would disagree with this, “so that they both had to sin.” My point is that they were able to not sin. We are deep in the weeds of God’s decree here and what I am saying is that it at least theoretically possible for Adam to not sin. But as i say elsewhere, he was mutable. This particular aspect of Adam’s innocence is not a hill I would die on since it goes into speculation.

      5. Les writes, “I am saying is that it at least theoretically possible for Adam to not sin. ”

        I agree.

        However, the reason that Adam was free not to sin is not because of who or what he was – i.e., innocent and uncorrupted. The reason that Adam was free not to sin was that he could call on God – ultimate truth – in making decisions. He did not do this when tempted by Satan, thus he ate the fruit.

        That is why we implore each other when having to make an important decision – pray and ask God for wisdom. Paul advised us to pray without ceasing and never take anything for granted; always be in communication with God asking His help on everything.

      6. Hi Roger, How can you dogmatically say – “Adam/Eve’s sin was necessary as Christ had already been slain for that sin”? There is no verse that clearly says Christ had already been slain before Adam’s sin on which to make a dogmatic statement such as that. Revelation 13:8 does not clearly teach such a thing, though some have tried to make such an inference from it. And logically it contradicts Galatians 4:4-5, and it contradicts the tenor of Scripture which reveals that future events do not yet exist, so therefore they could not already exist as completed in the past. Maybe you have a better verse to prove Adam’s sin was necessary.

      7. brianwagner writes, “How can you dogmatically say – “Adam/Eve’s sin was necessary as Christ had already been slain for that sin”?”

        James explains that temptation precedes sin. We are tempted, so we sin. Without temptation, Adam/Eve would never have sinned. The mere presence of the forbidden tree was not a temptation to Adam/Eve. It was only when Satan entered the garden and provoked them (tempted them) that the tree became a problem.

        So, could Satan enter the garden without asking God’s permission (as we read in Job and with regard to sifting the apostles)? No. Then, why does God decide that Satan should enter the garden? Satan’s purpose was no mystery – he wanted Adam/Eve to curse God (disobey God) and die just as he wants each of us to do.

        God is a God of purpose and God would not decide that Satan should enter the garden unless it was necessary, within God’s purpose, that Adam/Eve should sin.

        On this basis and until someone comes up with another explanation, I will be dogmatic in saying that Adam/Eve’s sin was necessary.

        Even for those who do not believe that God knows the future actions of people; they still believe that God knows His future actions – those future events derived from God’s actions are reality in God’s mind. God decides that He will create the universe, so that future is known. God decides that He will impregnate a young woman so that future is known. Your quibble is over God’s knowledge of the future actions of people; not of His own actions (correct?).

        Thus, it was God’s purpose – and His decision – to slay Christ on a cross and this as a propitiation for the sins of the world. God’s purpose was not crafted on the spur of the moment but was decided before He created the world – after all, He is God. God must have known that the man He created would sin (after all, He had already purposed (i.e., decided) that Satan should enter the garden and tempt Adam/Eve) necessitating Christ’s death on the cross. We have no reason to believe that God was ignorant of what He would do and why He would do it.

        I don’t see the connection to Galatians 4 that you do or any logical contradiction with what it says. If you want, you can always explain what you see in those verses that are important here. I don’t see anything.

      8. Hi Roger, You said – “James explains that temptation precedes sin. We are tempted, so we sin. Without temptation, Adam/Eve would never have sinned.” Is it possible that you have misunderstood and misused James’ teaching in regard to Adam? James said that man is first “drawn away by (ὑπο) his own lust”. This is not being drawn away by an outside influence as the determining cause. Even the word “enticed” could be connected with “by his own lust”, though it could point to an outside enticement that follows. And James is dealing with man after the fall, so using this verse to explain Adam’s fall may not fit. Then there is the question of Satan’s fall – “iniquity was found in” him (Ezek. 28:18). Who enticed Satan, causing his sin?

        You asked, “Your quibble is over God’s knowledge of the future actions of people; not of His own actions (correct?).” As we discussed before, I believe the Bible teaches that the future only exists in God’s mind, and He knows it fully as it truly exists. He was free to ordain a future for Himself and for man that includes the sum of any predeterminations plus all remaining possibilities. He knows that future perfectly as He ordained it, including all His future possible actions and predetermined actions.

        You state – “Thus, it was God’s purpose – and His decision – to slay Christ on a cross and this as a propitiation for the sins of the world. God’s purpose was not crafted on the spur of the moment but was decided before He created the world – after all.” I believe Christ’s propitiation was certainly decided as a plan to use if man would sin. (And I am glad you affirm that it was for the sins of the world). But it was not a plan that was a part of His eternal nature, but was chosen by Him at some point out of the possible human futures that He could ordain to create. He ordained one that did not make Christ paying for sin necessary unless the possibility of man freely choosing sin became a reality. He knew that possibility perfectly as a possibility for that is all it was, as He had ordained it to be. He came to know it as a settled fact once it happened based on man’s exercise of his free will. I know you do not like that definition of omniscience, but it is a definition more consistent with Scripture than the philosophically based tradition one, formulated by the same group that gave us the harmful doctrine of infant baptism.

        As far as Galatians 4, I just think it is important to be precise in our speech in discussions like this, and I welcome your pointing out when I am not precise. 🙂 You stated that Christ was slain before creation. I think what you meant is that Christ being slain was ordained before creation as a necessary event of the future. That is what you should say. He was not in reality slain before creation as Galatians 4 points out, unless all human history exists at the same moment in the true reality of things, which some wrongly try to teach as a philosophical definition of eternity (cf. Ps 90:2). Keep seeking the truth, my friend!

    2. So Les, help me understand further. Are you saying that if Adam did not have to sin, it would have been possible for God to confirm Adam into everlasting righteousness if Adam chose not to sin after a certain period of time or even after his first rejection of Satan’s and Eve’s offer to disobey God? Are you saying that God’s plan was still open at that point with other possible divine options?

      1. Ok, Thanks Les. I hope we can continue this, for it seems to me that if this is not a “hill” to die on for you, then you may not want to be dogmatic about the concept that all things were predetermined before creation. Also, see my reply to Roger’s (RHutchin’s) #4, which I also think should not be held dogmatically. I look forward to your future free-will input! 🙂

      2. Brian,

        Back for a few minutes. May it be affirmed first that I am a Covenant theologian (to whatever degree I can be considered a theologian). So I hold that in the garden what we have is the covenant of works. In fact I hold that salvation is of works. Jesus’ works. It started out as a probationary period for the 1st Adam who failed the test. But what I was earlier trying to communicate is that God made a covenant with our federal head Adam. Obey and live. Disobey and die. Adam did the latter

        The speculative part is what if Adam had not disobeyed. Fact is he did disobey and in fact the fall was already decreed or ordained. That’s why in theory he could have lived in innocent for …how long? It really doesn’t matter. The fall was ordained though God did not MAKE Adam fall.

        Blessings brother.

      3. Hi Les, I understand what you mean by choosing Covenant Theology. I attended Biblical Theological Seminary in PA. But you would agree that to be dogmatic we should have clear Scriptures. You said – “The fall was ordained though God did not MAKE Adam fall.” If you are saying that God ordained even a partial human history with true possibilities (freewill) including to avoid the fall than the fall was not necessary, and God could have ordained alternate plans to come into play based on how that freewill was exercised. But how do you get around God ordaining only the fall to take place (when ordaining sounds like planning to me) and not make God complicit in sin happening necessarily, which has to include culpability for sin to some degree.

        But if God did truly have alternatives within His ordained plan (as you have suggested with Adam), why must we chose the Stoic, Covenant Theological view that all human history was predetermined before creation? Could your loyalty be to a philosophical view of sovereignty and foreknowledge instead of one that better reflects the revelation of God’s free interaction with His creation within some divinely predetermined limits and ends?

      4. Hi Brian,

        Did you have one Robert Peterson for any theology classes?

        “If you are saying that God ordained even a partial human history with true possibilities (freewill) including to avoid the fall than the fall was not necessary, and God could have ordained alternate plans to come into play based on how that freewill was exercised.”

        I stipulate that God ordained all of human history. I must be speaking confusingly. Let me try again. I said, “My point is that they were able to not sin. We are deep in the weeds of God’s decree here and what I am saying is that it at least theoretically possible for Adam to not sin. But as i say elsewhere, he was mutable.” That is, Adam was able NOT to sin. I should also say that Adam was not able not to sin. He could refrain from sinning but he had the ability to sin. In the end, God had the Lamb of God in mind before the foundation of the world.

        “But how do you get around God ordaining only the fall to take place (when ordaining sounds like planning to me) and not make God complicit in sin happening necessarily, which has to include culpability for sin to some degree.”

        Because there is not one thing that takes place outside God’s will. Scripture says so. Sin entering the world included. And whatever God does is right and pure. Scripture says so. The two things are compatible. The scriptures do not force us to give up one for the other.

        Blessings brother.

      5. Hi Les, I did not have Peterson, but I did have Dunzweiler in the early 80s and then Magnum in 2003.

        You said – “That is, Adam was able NOT to sin. I should also say that Adam was not able not to sin.” Do you mean that Adam was not able not to sin eventually but that was he still able not to sin when he was first invited to? If that was truly possible, wouldn’t God’s foreknowledge have to include the possibility of Adam’s first success against temptation as well as that possibility of that being the first failure plus all of the alternatives that would flow from either choice? And if God ordained that Adam could not resist that first sin offer does not that make God culpable a little?

        I know you want to hold both – “all things predetermined before creation” and “Adam’s sin was predetermined on its first offer but God was not culpable in any way” because you say the Bible teaches both, though you hint that you recognize the logical contradiction (weeds). I have NOT found a Bible verse that teaches clearly that ALL things were predetermined before creation. And I would say that the fact that one logically suggests God actually predetermined a human history, before creation, from a series of possible human histories consistent with His nature (Molinism), necessitates that God could also have chosen not to predetermine a completed human history but instead to predetermine one that is open with certain ends and limits but with freedom for Him and His creation to interact according to those limits and in the direction of those ends. In fact, I think that reflects the biblical record better.

        You said – “In the end, God had the Lamb of God in mind before the foundation of the world.” But unless you want to make human history a part of God’s eternal nature, which He was “forced” to create, which included incarnation and crucifixion, then “in mind” can only mean a possible plan, consistent with His nature, that He would put into effect, if man chose to sin. Of course, on could justly argue that God was not obligated to confirm Adam in divine righteousness, no matter how many times he successfully refused to sin, showing trust in God, so God just had to wait for Adam to express his will contrary to God’s command. But the point I was trying to argue for is that free-will at any point necessitates a rejection of all things predetermined, which is essential for Calvinism’s individual election before creation.

        You also said – “Because there is not one thing that takes place outside God’s will.” I would agree, but I see God’s will (plans and desires) expressed in a world that is not all predetermined, because He said so in Scripture, through each command, invitation, conditional statement, and declaration that He is current making decisions (e.g. Jer 18:1-11). Blessing in return my brother!

      6. Brian,

        Way too many words brother in one post. This late. Killing me.

        “And if God ordained that Adam could not resist that first sin offer does not that make God culpable a little?”

        All that came before and then this. No. Because God ordains something does not make him culpable. See Acts 2 and the death of His Son.

        With this, you’ll need to restate it for me, just a good ol boy from the south…”You said – “In the end, God had the Lamb of God in mind before the foundation of the world.” But unless you want to make human history a part of God’s eternal nature, which He was “forced” to create, which included incarnation and crucifixion, then “in mind” can only mean a possible plan, consistent with His nature, that He would put into effect, if man chose to sin. Of course, on could justly argue that God was not obligated to confirm Adam in divine righteousness, no matter how many times he successfully refused to sin, showing trust in God, so God just had to wait for Adam to express his will contrary to God’s command. But the point I was trying to argue for is that free-will at any point necessitates a rejection of all things predetermined, which is essential for Calvinism’s individual election before creation.”

        ““Because there is not one thing that takes place outside God’s will.” I would agree, but I see God’s will…” Well obviously we disagree. It’s late. Blessings to you.

      7. Good Morning Les, It was less then 500 words! 🙂 And please do not stay up late on my account. I can wait even a day or two if necessary. Maybe I should wait longer so that my answers will be more coherent! 🙂

        So it appears to me that you are saying that God did ordained that Adam could not have resisted the first opportunity to sin, and yet you want to say Adam was free to resist. You also do not admit the logic that such ordination makes God culpable a little since, since you also want to hold God as righteous in all things. So if I choose to put my child into a situation where they meet a thief who talks them into disobeying me and joining them in a theft, and I know (even ordain) that my child must disobey me on the first opportunity, as long as I pay for the theft later, I am not a little culpable for my child disobeying me?

        To restate my comments on the human history (future) that God ordained, I wanted to see what you thought about how free God was to choose between various possible human futures (Molinism). If that is accepted, which I think is logical, as far as God’s ability, I was wondering if you saw the logic of God’s ability to include ordaining an open future where everything is not preordained.

        We do disagree about the definition of God’s will (wants and plans). I hope we can discuss specific Scriptures that show where we disagree more specifically, and hopefully we can help each other become of one mind with Scripture’s view.

      8. Good morning Brian. I didn’t really mean to sat too many words. I was really referring to my own fatigue and the hard questions you were asking. It wasn’t you.

        Here’s the bottom line. Many years ago (and to this day) I studied the WCF extensively. I subscribed to it in 1992 in my ordination vows and my views have not changed. So on these questions you’re asking me, my confessional statement says:

        “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

        2. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

        Now as you well know there are scriptural supports behind these statements, though I acknowledge that you and other non Reformed would dispute those supports as legitimate.

        As for Monism, I’ve not studied extensively. From what I’ve read, I would reject it though. My view expressed above (“…yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”) would work against Monism if I understand it correctly.

        So, “I wanted to see what you thought about how free God was to choose between various possible human futures (Molinism). If that is accepted, which I think is logical, as far as God’s ability, I was wondering if you saw the logic of God’s ability to include ordaining an open future where everything is not preordained.”

        My answer is no. It would seem to me that of the various possible futures you’re speaking of, only one takes place. Does that not mean that in the other futures God’s ordination of things fail? Or, if He knows that the one future is the one that will be actualized, was it not preordained?

        But maybe Monism has an answer for that.

        Can we humans thwart God’s plans? Could Judas have chosen to do otherwise than betray Jesus?

        Maybe you can better help me understand Molinism (assuming that’s your view?). Maybe use Judas as an example. Did God ordain that Judas would betray Jesus the way he betrayed him and when he betrayed him? If you say yes, could Judas have chosen to not betray Jesus the way and when he betrayed Jesus?

        I have a full day of meetings and some travel. So I may not be back for a while. Thanks brother.

      9. Hi Les, Answer anytime you have the time. Never feel pressured. I appreciate your interactions.

        I would love to discuss with you sometime the Scriptures that were used to support the statements from the WCF that you vowed to uphold. I even wrote a critique of those statements, and the attempt to use those verses in support, as part of my dissertation on the perspicuity of Scripture. I think Christian testimony has been harmed greatly by denominations who require man-made statements with little or no clear Scriptural support for pastoral qualification.

        You used the term “Monism” sometimes, but I think you always meant the term “Molinism”. As a Calvinist you do believe in monism, 🙂 but only some Calvinists have started to see that Molinism (middle knowledge) is a more logically consistent position with their view of everything as predetermined before creation, as they still want to hold to the contingency of secondary causes. Some Arminians on the other hand have begun to see Open Theism (possible knowledge) as a more logically consistent position with their view of everything as not predetermined before creation, though still holding as God being sovereign in His foreknowledge.

        I wonder if you would thing that it appears logical that if only one future was truly possible to be actualized (or available in God’s omniscience, if you will) than that such a future was necessary to God’s nature. In other words, God had to create, incarnate, and be crucified from all eternity. He was not free NOT to create this human future that exists! I do not think you would want to hold to that idea of God being locked in this way, biblically or philosophically.

        You asked – “Can we humans thwart God’s plans? Could Judas have chosen to do otherwise than betray Jesus?” I would answer that I believe the Bible teaches that God allows us to thwart any plans that God has made conditional (Jer 18:1-11), but we can not thwart any plans that are predetermined as unconditional. I just do not believe the Scriptures indicate anywhere that God’s plan before creation was only of predeterminations of unconditional events that all must happen. The evidence is too great in the other direction, that is, God ordained conditional plans with some things predetermined, with God’s freedom to even predetermine more things as time progresses (e.g. 1Cor 12:11). I believe Judas was chosen after he had freely rejected God’s offer of repentance (2Pet 3:9, Heb 3:7-8). Because he had hardened his heart against God’s call earlier in his life, God fitted him at that point (not before creation) to be a vessel for destruction (Rom 9:22), so that He could show mercy to others in offering them the same opportunity of repentance that Judas had rejected. There were other individuals available, like Judas, that could have fulfilled the same role. He was not created for that role. God’s desire had been for him to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, but he had evidently rejected God’s enlightenment for that purpose (John 1:9).

        The warning is clear – Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart (Heb 3:7-8). I have found Calvinists struggle with the truth of this warning, for how/why would a non-elect person in their view “hear his voice and not receive the promise of it” and how/why would an elect person in their view “harden his heart after hearing His voice and receive the results of this”? God’s plan must include those conditional possibilities for such an warning to be legitimate, so there must be, logically, no individuals elected from before creation (except Christ), but only after they hear and accept the calling (cf. Matt 22:14, 2Pet 1:10). Election of individuals follows their individual calling.

      10. brianwagner writes, “I wonder if you would thing that it appears logical that if only one future was truly possible to be actualized (or available in God’s omniscience, if you will) than that such a future was necessary to God’s nature. In other words, God had to create, incarnate, and be crucified from all eternity. He was not free NOT to create this human future that exists!”

        That, of course, has nothing to do with Calvinism. Calvinism says that God was perfectly content with Himself and then decided to create the universe. God did not have to do so; He decided to do so. As God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, we cannot know what led God to create the universe except as He tells us in the Scriptures and I am not aware that God tells us very much.

        Nonetheless, when God planned for the creation of the world, He also planned for everything that He personally would do in interacting with His creation. This included creating Adam/Eve and placing them in the garden, placing the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden and telling A/E not to eat its fruit, agreeing to Satan’s request to enter the garden to tempt Adam/Eve knowing that the outcome would be their disobedience, impregnating Mary with Christ, sacrificing Christ on the cross as a propitiation for sin, and on and on. The Open Theist quibbles that God could not know all that man would decide to do but must allow that God, through His deliberate actions basically provided the framework for human history.

        The major point here is that Calvinism says that God was free to create the human future that exists and significantly influenced that future through His direct interaction with His creation.

        You should understand all this, so why present a strawman for discussion? Toward what end are you doing this?

      11. Good Morning Roger –

        Let me affirm that it was not my intention to set up a straw man. I was looking for common ground from which to reason to the position I am espousing concerning God’s foreknowledge and sovereignty before creation and after. As you know, I believe that if God was able to freely choose before creation then He should be recognized as able to freely choose after creation, even if the evidence points to that He did keep for Himself any freedom to ordain new things after creation. But finding common ground as to what we believe about God’s freedom does become a good starting point to then look at the biblical evidence.

        I do want to ask you a question that I have been trying to find the answer to from others. And I am asking you because you seem to me to place a lot of authority in the traditional definitions of sovereignty and foreknowledge. Do you hold to the traditional definitions of baptism (that it should be given to infants), church (that it existed in the OT), and millennium (that Jesus will not reign in Israel someday)? These also are not straw men, but a place to find common ground, I hope, so that we can look again at the evidence concerning the traditional definitions for foreknowledge and sovereignty. Have a great day, my friend!

        Also, let me affirm that my intention on this site is edification of others, evangelism if needed, and the exaltation of Christ. If and when I sound like I just want to “win” or “self promote”, please forgive me.

      12. brianwagner askes, “Do you hold to the traditional definitions of baptism (that it should be given to infants), church (that it existed in the OT), and millennium (that Jesus will not reign in Israel someday)?”

        I see the Scriptures supporting two forms of baptism on men. The one is the baptism of infants by the parents by which the parents dedicate the child to God and dedicate themselves to raising the child to know God. The second baptism – John’s baptism – is an action by an adult to proclaim that he has been living a life in opposition to God and is now dedicating himself to God.

        Added to this is God’s baptism in the Holy Spirit where God gives His spirit to His elect to teach them the Scriptures and strengthen then through sanctification.

        As to the church, it existed from the beginning of creation – Adam/Eve were the first church. The church was defined by Jesus when He said, “Where two or three are gathered together…”

        I never really got into the millennium stuff and eventually rested on amillennialism.

        You wrote, “Let me affirm that it was not my intention to set up a straw man.” So, no more attributing stuff to Calvinism that is flat out wrong.

      13. Brian,

        “I would love to discuss with you sometime the Scriptures that were used to support the statements from the WCF that you vowed to uphold.”

        Well maybe that opportunity will come about.

        “I think Christian testimony has been harmed greatly by denominations who require man-made statements with little or no clear Scriptural support for pastoral qualification.”

        I think a denomination like the PCA would differ over the phrase you use “little or no clear Scriptural support.”

        Yes my Mac corrected Molinism to Monism. I didn’t catch it doing the auto correct thing.

        “I wonder if you would thing that it appears logical that if only one future was truly possible to be actualized (or available in God’s omniscience, if you will) than that such a future was necessary to God’s nature. In other words, God had to create, incarnate, and be crucified from all eternity. He was not free NOT to create this human future that exists! I do not think you would want to hold to that idea of God being locked in this way, biblically or philosophically.”

        I affirm that it was God’s intention to create according to his good pleasure. Nothing outside of God locked him into creating in a certain way. God was completely free to create in the way he decided to create.

        As for Judas and such, we have a fundamental difference over God’s decree. That is evident. On the last paragraph, this is where our view of how God’s decree and the human side of preaching for instance, actually work out. God’s elect from the foundation of the world will surely come to faith…in time at the appointed day of salvation. Someone preaches and the elect person is saved. His spiritual eyes are opened by God enabling him to behold the glory of Christ and he makes a true and genuine decision to follow Christ. It is conditional. Always has been since the covenant of works I mentioned earlier. If this, then that. Of course the non compatiblist will disagree.

        Blessings brother.

      14. Hey Les, Good Morning!

        Thanks for replying further. I hope we will deal we some specific Scriptures the WCF chose in support of its propositions. I think you would agree that clarity, if it exists, should be self-evident from the context.

        You said – “I affirm that it was God’s intention to create according to his good pleasure. Nothing outside of God locked him into creating in a certain way. God was completely free to create in the way he decided to create.” So, if you don’t mind, can I tease this out a little more? Do you think He was “completely free” to create in a way other then you think He decided to? Have a great day in His service!

      15. brianwagner asks Les, “Do you think He was “completely free” to create in a way other then you think He decided to?”

        Les wrote, “God was completely free to create in the way he decided to create.” So, brianwagner asked, “”Do you think He was “completely free” to create in a way other then you think He decided to?” The simple answer is, Yes.

        Of course, brian would then ask, Why do you think that?

        The question says, “[God] decided to,” meaning that brian understands that God was able to decide what He wanted to do and do that which He decided.

        The question sorta asks, “[Was God] “completely free” to create in a[ny other] way”? To the Calvinist, the answer is obvious; God is God, so, of course, He was completely free to create in any way He choose. That God choose to create tells us that God could have chosen not to create at least in regard to that one decision; God could have chosen not to create the universe described in Genesis 1.

        So, the question posed by brian is whether God could have created any other universe than the one described in Genesis 1. This is an issue the Scriptures really don’t answer head-on; why should they? I think the only answer here is to say that God was completely free to create in a way other than He did (i.e., decided) until someone can show that God could not have decided otherwise; i.e., to show that God is not God.

        I do not see the point that brian is trying to press (but it does illustrate to me the lengths people will go in seeking to identify a weakness in the Calvinist system).

      16. Brian,

        I think rhutchin asks some good questions and states some good points about our discussion. So, maybe it would be easier if you would just state your proposition regarding God’s freedom in creating and we can go from there. You may have stated it already or at least hinted at it in some of your comments and it was lost on me in the back and forth. So would you state it in a few sentences?

        Thanks brother.

      17. Hi Les, Hope you didn’t think I forgot about you! This Spring has been really intense and I had to prioritize! 🙂 My proposition about God’s freedom before creation, in that He did not have to create this world the way it is, but made a choice to, proves that God’s freedom is expressed sequentially (before and after) just as the Scriptures indicate. I was trying to find a common starting point for our discussion, and I think this is it.

        Next I was desiring to discuss, because of His freedom, that there was nothing in God’s nature that forces Him to create a closed human history where everything is already predetermined. Though He was certainly able to predetermine everything before starting, the Scriptures indicate that God has predetermined some things and left others open as true possibilities for His free interaction with man. I mentioned concerning the use of Scriptures’ conditional statements and positive statements of God still making choices that such evidence makes clear that all things being predetermined before creation was not what God freely chose to do.

        Roger could not see the point I was trying to “press” because I think he has difficulty allowing himself to consider definitions of omniscience, sovereignty, and foreknowledge in any way other than traditionally defined by past theologians (who defined many important Bible concepts wrongly), and to allow himself to define these words just on the evidence, context, and tenor of Scripture.

      18. brianwagner writes, “My proposition about God’s freedom before creation, in that He did not have to create this world the way it is, but made a choice to, proves that God’s freedom is expressed sequentially (before and after) just as the Scriptures indicate.”

        The problem here is our conception of God. If we could picture God having a hand, then our universe in God’s hand would be as a BB in our hand. Obviously God does not have a hand or a brain as humans do. Before creation there is nothing hidden in one part of God that is not known in all other parts. That God deliberates within Himself is described by Paul in Ephesians – God works all things after the counsel of His will. Yet, we are also told that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. So, we can speak of “before” and “after” but there is no such thing with God else He is in some way subject to time and pretty much everyone agrees that He is not. It may be true that God makes a decision at some point, but the issue is whether any decision by God could be less than complete – does God really need to make any more decisions after He decides to create the universe or are all His decisions regarding what He will do made at the same point – God decides to create a universe and simultaneously decides to create human life, allow Satan to tempt Adam/Eve, impregnate Mary, put Jesus on the cross, confront Saul on the road to Damascus, etc. No more decisions need be made.

        If God decides to create a universe, and “afterwards,” God speaks the universe into existence, then God does know future events (as humans perceive future) – at the least, that He would create the universe. He would also know all the events of the first 6 days of creation and that He would create Adam/Eve. Then, that He would have Satan tempt Adam/Eve with the certain knowledge of that outcome, the expulsion from the garden, and many other “future” events. Is it possible that God does not know all the future; God must certainly know those things He will bring about, so what is there that God does not bring about through direct or secondary causes? Nothing say the Calvinists.

      19. brianwagner writes, “Roger could not see the point I was trying to “press” because I think he has difficulty allowing himself to consider definitions of omniscience, sovereignty, and foreknowledge in any way other than traditionally defined by past theologians (who defined many important Bible concepts wrongly), and to allow himself to define these words just on the evidence, context, and tenor of Scripture.”

        Definitions are derived from the information we find in the Scriptures. Thus, our definition of omniscience must be consistent with Isaiah 40-45 or so, the many predictions concerning the Messiah and other events, and provide that God is perfect in knowledge, in wisdom, and has infinite understanding. The classical definition of omniscience does this. To deviate from the classical definition is to create a different word for God’s knowledge – one that does not allow for those characteristics of God’s knowledge described in the Scriptures. For example, can the Open Theist concept of God allow for God to have infinite understanding or perfect wisdom – doesn’t Open Theism sometimes makes unwise decisions because He cannot know the future and lacks infinite understanding simply because He lacks knowledge of the future. It is not definitions of omniscience, etc. that are at issue but the differing concepts of who God is.

      20. “…doesn’t Open Theism sometimes makes unwise decisions’..”

        Oooops! “…doesn’t Open Theism say that God sometimes makes unwise decisions…”

  46. Hutch,

    //Your citations only support the conclusion of a free will, not necessarily autonomous. Whether man’s will is libertarian and contra-causal is debatable//

    I should have said libertarian free will. And, yes, the scriptures clearly support that view.

    //When God presents choices to people, it does not mean that people are inherently free to act…//

    Right, because, as we all know, the Calvy caricature of God is vain and disingenuous…He asks us to make choices with no intention that we actually have a real choice.

    //…God may present people with choices for the purpose of exposing their sinful inclinations and to demonstrate the truth of His word…//

    You mean God wants to expose the sinful inclinations that HE DETERMINED THEY’D HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO HAVE in order to demonstrate that His word (which tells people NOT to sin) is true? Sure, no problem there, lol.

    //There is none that seeks God//

    But GOD seeks and calls US. He calls us ALL to repentance. And He wouldn’t do that unless He’d given us ALL the ability to respond.

    //However, the end result is the same: for man to have autonomous free will, God cannot be sovereign//

    Man’s libertarian free will can’t stop God from being God. Can’t hinder His power to destroy us all with a single thought. Couldn’t prevent Him from accomplishing HIS purpose to bring salvation to the world. Sovereignty doesn’t require mind control or predestination. That’s the mistake you Calvinists make.

    1. Amyra Batya writes, “Man’s libertarian free will can’t stop God from being God. Can’t hinder His power to destroy us all with a single thought. Couldn’t prevent Him from accomplishing HIS purpose to bring salvation to the world. Sovereignty doesn’t require mind control or predestination.”

      Sovereignty requires that God be the final arbitrator of everything that happens and God arbitrates all things – decreeing all that happens. God cannot ignore something (except He decree to ignore it which then is not ignoring it). Whether one calls it “mind control,” it is true that God can affect the thinking of people. Thus, Christians pray that God will direct their thoughts to such as is good and glorifies God with every expectation that God will respond to such requests. So, Christ instructed that the Christian pray, “Lead us not into temptation; deliver us from evil,” with every expectation that God would do so. It is Satan who desired to sift the apostles at Christ’s crucifixion, but Christ said that He had prayed for them – and to whom are we to think God listened: Christ or Satan? Should we not think that Satan, who prowls the world seeking whom he would destroy, can do anything without God’s decree that he be given freedom to pursue his evil agenda.

      Sovereignty says that God exercises absolute control over His creation and works all things after the counsel of His will – including control over the thoughts and intents of people – to the effect that God necessarily ordains all that happens.

      I don’t know how you define “libertarian free will” but it cannot be defined as “absolute” freedom. The freedom of people to act is constrained by a lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, and lack of wisdom. Man is free within the constraints of his knowledge, understanding, and wisdom and can be more or less free as these change. The issue with Calvinism is the degree to which a person’s “freedom” of will was compromised by Adam’s sin and the subsequent corruption of man’s heart which devises the choices from which the will decides. Calvinists say that unregenerate man has no real “freedom” of will and only gains this freedom as God regenerates the person leading to their salvation.

      Hebrews says that people cannot please God without faith but none have faith as faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. So, can those who have no faith exercise “libertarian free will”? Not with respect to salvation which is accessed by faith.So, what good is libertarian free will if unregenerate people actually have it? Why do you even raise it in this discussion? You erroneously label “libertarian free will” as autonomous free will. Could we not think that you probably don’t understand libertarian free will and erroneously toss it about in your arguments as if it means something when it doesn’t?

  47. Hutch,

    //Sovereignty requires that God be the final arbitrator of everything…decreeing all that happens//

    sov·er·eign·ty [säv(ə)rən(t)ē]. Noun. Supreme power or authority.

    The definition of Sovereignty doesn’t require meticulously predetermination of all things. It simply means highest power and authority. Period. Kings and Emperors are sovereign over their countries, but they don’t meticulously control everything that happens. You Calvies take the word “sovereignty,” REDEFINE it to mean “meticulous and exhaustive control over ever molecule in the universe,” and then apply this false definition to your theology (hmmm…maybe that says more about YOU than it does about God). Defining it that way is all right for YOU, but I don’t have to accept your Calvinized definition; especially since the BIBLE doesn’t define sovereignty that way.

    //Thus, Christians pray that God will direct their thoughts to such as is good and glorifies God with every expectation that God will respond to such requests. So, Christ instructed that the Christian pray, “Lead us not into temptation; deliver us from evil,” with every expectation that God would do so//

    That doesn’t mean He supernaturally controls or changes our thoughts and minds. God can lead, guide, teach, and influence people, through non-deterministic means. He can strengthen our resolve to do as we purpose in our heart to do. He teaches us through His Word and with grounded preachers. He can even impact our circumstances to bring about a life lesson.

    By the way, Jesus also told us to pray: “Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Sounds like the Sovereign Lord’s will NOT being done on the earth, according to Jesus. But why listen to Jesus when you can listen to John Calvin?

    //Should we not think that Satan, who prowls the world seeking whom he would destroy, can do anything without God’s decree that he be given freedom to pursue his evil agenda//

    First, where does the Bible mention this secret decree you Calvies keep talkin about? I mean the one where God meticulously determines all things? Second, Satan does what he does because God allows it, yes. But God didn’t intend or decree Satan’s evil acts such that Satan had no choice but to do as God predetermined. If He had, that would make God morally inferior to Satan. Satan would merely be the puppet in the puppet show (i.e. morally innocent) and God would be the brains behind the scene (i.e. the real culprit).

    //Sovereignty says that God exercises absolute control over His creation and works all things after the counsel of His will – including control over the thoughts and intents of people – to the effect that God necessarily ordains all that happens//

    Neither the Bible nor the dictionary defines sovereignty that way, Hutch. Yes, God works “all things after the counsel of His will.” But WHAT is His will in the context of Ephesians 1? it is to bring salvation to mankind and grant a glorious inheritance to all those who get IN CHRIST. He has used Israel to accomplish this, in spite of her willful and persistent disobedience and failure to keep the covenant.

    //I don’t know how you define “libertarian free will” but it cannot be defined as “absolute” freedom. The freedom of people to act is constrained by a lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, and lack of wisdom//

    I didn’t say I was omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. I said I have libertarian free will. I can choose between multiple options.

    //The issue with Calvinism is the degree to which a person’s “freedom” of will was compromised by Adam’s sin and the subsequent corruption of man’s heart which devises the choices from which the will decides. Calvinists say that unregenerate man has no real “freedom” of will and only gains this freedom as God regenerates the person leading to their salvation//

    Yes, you think total depravity means total inability to even respond to God’s revelation. I don’t believe that and the Bible doesn’t say it.

    //Hebrews says that people cannot please God without faith but none have faith as faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. So, can those who have no faith exercise “libertarian free will”?//

    Not being able to please God has nothing to do with free will. The fact that God’s standard of sinless perfection can’t be satisfied by our pitiful works doesn’t mean we don’t have free will. It just means when we willfully ignore His terms of salvation, preferring instead to try coming to Him on our own terms, we do so in vain.

    Also, the fact that SAVING faith only comes by hearing the gospel is one thing (we hear and are drawn in by God’s gracious and loving appeal). But anyone who operates in the real world knows that even unsaved people exercise faith (after all, what is “faith” but belief and trust?). They have faith in themselves, in their secular humanistic principles, in their celebrities, doctors and psychics… they have faith in their home security systems and in the pilots who fly them here and there. The difference between unsaved people and us is WHERE we choose to put our faith. We hear the gospel, we believe and put sincere faith in Christ.

    //You erroneously label “libertarian free will” as autonomous free will. Could we not think that you probably don’t understand libertarian free will and erroneously toss it about in your arguments as if it means something when it doesn’t?//

    I made a mistake and used the wrong word, so SUE me, lol 😛 I’m not perfect. Are you perfect, Hutch? Do you always get everything right in every comment? If you’ve ever said a wrong word in this forum, what should we conclude about you?

    1. Amyra Batya writes, “The definition of Sovereignty doesn’t require meticulously predetermination of all things. It simply means highest power and authority. Period.”

      God is not just sovereign; He is absolutely sovereign – “absolutely” normally being understood.

      God is omniscient and omnipotent. God knows all that is to happen and God has the power to affect anything that happens. Thus, God necessarily governs – God is the highest power and authority (technically the only power and authority) – and necessarily nothing can happen without God ruling on it – decreeing that it will happen (God cannot be indifferent to anything that happens in His creation). The definition of sovereignty is not the real issue – it is the definition of sovereignty applied to God So, we first identify the characteristics of God. We then identify God as sovereign. That combination necessarily makes God the determiner of all things – God necessarily meticulously predetermines all things because He is absolutely sovereign.

      For your belief to be true, God cannot be God as the Scriptures describe Him – an absolute sovereign. An earthly person’s sovereignty is limited by who they are. An earthly king is described as sovereign and we understand that it is a conditional (not absolute) sovereignty – conditioned by his limited knowledge, understanding, wisdom, power etc.

      Amyra Batya writes, “I made a mistake and used the wrong word,…”

      In addition, I don’t think you know what libertarian free will is or how to properly apply it in argument. Prove me wrong. Explain what you understand LFW to be.

  48. RHutchin

    //Jeremiah tells us that the heart is desperately wicked. Thus, the heart has the capacity to devise its own evil//

    That’s why Calvinism is false. Remember, the “heart” is actually the “mind” (it’s obviously neither the physical heart nor something other than the seat of our consciousness). Thus, to apply this to you words, the BIBLE says the MIND has the capacity to devise it’s OWN evil. That’s libertarian freedom. That ain’t Calvinism.

    //we read of God’s plan to judge the nations and each individual. God’s acts of judgment glorify Himself. By decreeing that man act freely to pursue that sin he entertains in his heart, God thereby prepares man for judgment and such judgment is ultimately for God’s glory//

    So you think God is “glorified” by inventing bestiality, ensuring that man would have no choice but to commit it, and then punishing the man for acting it out, do you? You really think that glorifies a God who says He is LOVE? Is this how LOVE is glorified, Hutch?

    Well, at least it’s an answer, lol. Thanks for that much. I guess.

    1. Amyra Batya writes, “//[rhutchin writes]Jeremiah tells us that the heart is desperately wicked. Thus, the heart has the capacity to devise its own evil//

      That’s why Calvinism is false. Remember, the “heart” is actually the “mind” (it’s obviously neither the physical heart nor something other than the seat of our consciousness). Thus, to apply this to you words, the BIBLE says the MIND has the capacity to devise it’s OWN evil. That’s libertarian freedom. That ain’t Calvinism.”

      Libertarian freedom addresses actions of the will. The heart (or mind and its desires) is usually distinguished from the will (the choices people make). A person wills to do that which his heart desires. Paul tells us in Romans that the unsaved are slaves to sin. Thus, their heart is in slavery to sin and is thereby desperately wicked to the extent that the person desires nothing good. From the heart, a person devises evil but never good. This is not “freedom” as expressed in terms like “libertarian free will.” As you confused libertarian free will with autonomous free will earlier, now you confuse the meaning of freedom as libertarian free will intends it. Even the unsaved are free to do evil within the constraints imposed by slavery to sin but such freedom is not libertarian free will which requires that a person be free from slavery to sin. As you seem not to understand libertarian free will, why would you think you understand Calvinism?

      Amyra Batya writes, “//[rhutchin writes]we read of God’s plan to judge the nations and each individual. God’s acts of judgment glorify Himself. By decreeing that man act freely to pursue that sin he entertains in his heart, God thereby prepares man for judgment and such judgment is ultimately for God’s glory//

      So you think God is “glorified” by inventing bestiality, ensuring that man would have no choice but to commit it, and then punishing the man for acting it out, do you? You really think that glorifies a God who says He is LOVE? Is this how LOVE is glorified, Hutch?”

      God did not invent bestiality. A desperately wicked heart could easily have led a corrupted person to seek corrupted sex. In addition, Satan could easily have introduced the idea to a sinful person. There is no basis to conclude that God had to invent such corruption.

      As you now want to emphasize “God’s love,” I take it that you count yourself among the universalists who argue that a God of love will not condemn any person for any sin as He sent Christ to atone for sin. Presuming you see the logic of the argument implied by your statements.

  49. //God is not just sovereign; He is absolutely sovereign – “absolutely” normally being understood.//

    The Bible doesn’t define God’s sovereignty the way you do, Hutch. The Bible doesn’t say He meticulously controls everything, including people’s thoughts, actions, and down to the smallest molecule. That’s your unbiblical systematic. And even you brought up a scripture that says man can bring up sinful desires in his own heart. Well, if man can do that on his own, then obviously God isn’t meticulously controlling man’s mind. So your systematic is at odds with scripture.

    //God is omniscient and omnipotent//

    And God has the power to create beings who have libertarian wills. In other words, their will and actions can go contrary to His desires. He has the power to do that and manage us just fine. And you are no one to say He can’t.

    //For your belief to be true, God cannot be God as the Scriptures describe Him – an absolute sovereign//

    Where does the Bible say that “absolute sovereignty” means meticulous predetermination and mind control? Nowhere. Again, that’s YOUR definition, which has absolutely nothing to do with scripture.

    //I don’t think you know what libertarian free will is or how to properly apply it in argument. Prove me wrong. Explain what you understand LFW to be.//

    Who do you think you are?! I don’t have to prove anything to you. Don’t you EVER condescend to me like that again, you understand? Besides, if you think I’m using the term the wrong way then YOU prove to me I’m using it wrongly.

    1. Amyra Batya writes, “//[rhutchin wrties]I don’t think you know what libertarian free will is or how to properly apply it in argument. Prove me wrong. Explain what you understand LFW to be.//

      Who do you think you are?! I don’t have to prove anything to you. Don’t you EVER condescend to me like that again, you understand? Besides, if you think I’m using the term the wrong way then YOU prove to me I’m using it wrongly.”

      OK. You are stressed because you really cannot explain LFW. As non-Calvinists are prone to do, you respond in an emotional rant. To further discussion, let’s set out a Calvinist view of LFW and maybe you can explain why you reject that view and what you believe instead.

      LFW is normally described as contra-causal choice or the ability to choose otherwise. This freedom of choice involves several things:

      1. The person is aware that he has a choice.
      2. The person is aware of distinctions between, or among, the options from which he can choose.
      3. The person is aware of the impacts of the options should he choose one and not another.
      4. The person is able to rationally consider the options he has and choose that option that reflects accurately what he knows.

      At this point, we ask if this is how you understand LFW and if not, how you would describe LFW.

      As only one issue really matters – that of salvation – let’s look at that. The Calvinist portrays it this way:

      1. The person is aware of the choice he faces: eternal life vs eternal death.
      2. The person is aware of the great benefit to eternal life and the extreme loss from eternal death.
      3. The person is aware that a choice once made will be irrevocable at death.

      The Calvinist concludes that a person having LFW will always choose eternal life because that is the rational choice. If a person makes an irrational choice in choosing eternal death, then that person does not exhibit LFW – something has had to interfere with his ability to make a libertarian free choice. The Calvinist concludes that the unsaved do not have LFW and this explains why they reject salvation. It is only after God regenerates the person, instilling them with LFW, that they are able to freely choose between life and death and all those whom God regenerates then choose eternal life.

      As a non-Calvinist, you oppose this position and do so vehemently. Can you explain why you do this?

    2. Amyra Batya writes, “Where does the Bible say that “absolute sovereignty” means meticulous predetermination and mind control? Nowhere. Again, that’s YOUR definition, which has absolutely nothing to do with scripture.”

      The Bible tells us that God is omniscient and omnipotent – God knows everything and God has the power to do anything He wants and nobody can prevent Him doing so. In Ephesians 1, Paul tells us that God works “all things” after the counsel of His will. By “all things” is understood that God can meticulously determine anything even to the point of mind control.

      In Colossians, Paul tells us that all things were created through Christ and for Christ and that Christ sustains all things. So, if Christ does not sustain the universe, the universe would devolve into chaos and be destroyed. If Christ does not sustain the life of a person, that person dies. Such is the dependence of creation on God/Christ.

      As God must sustain His creation for anything to continue to exist, He must be intimately involved with His creation in an ongoing basis and regarding every single fact of His creation. To what degree?

      In Job, we read that Satan cannot touch Job because God protects Job. It is only after God removes that protection that Satan can do any harm to Job. However, we see that God allows Satan to affect those things external to Job and not Job’s mind. Thus we see that Job never loses his rationality and therefore, his knowledge of God – so, Job never rejects God. When God removed His protection over Job, He knew exactly what Satan would do and allowed Satan to do only what God had determined.

      In the garden, Satan cannot enter to tempt Adam and Eve unless God decrees it. God so decreed and Satan entered into the garden. In this instance, God allowed Satan to interact with Adam/Eve and introduce ideas that they would not have thought otherwise. Satan effectively introduced subtle lies that Adam/Eve did not understand as lies (because God had ever lied to them) and these lies compromised the freedom God had given them to make decisions. Thus, we see that Satan was God’s agent to manipulate Adam/Eve to sin – even to introducing new things for them to think about. God could have protected Adam/Eve from the destructive heresies that Satan was introducing but He did not. God can control the things we think about. Did God know that Adam/Eve would sin as a consequence of Satan being allowed to enter the garden? He did because Christ was slain from the foundation of the world. God is always in complete control and nothing happens except as He decrees – God works “all things” after the counsel of His will.

      If God is not “absolutely” sovereign, then it cannot be true that God works “all” things after the counsel of His will – something must prevent God doing so at least in one instance.

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