Matt Slick, the founder and president of Carm Ministries, is an accomplished apologist and fine man of God. He is one of the most intelligent men I have had the privilege of debating over the doctrines of grace. He and I do not see eye to eye, obviously, but I do feel he means well and has a unique ability to argue his perspective.
Last night I was invited to a Google Hangout by Tim Hurd, better known as “The Bible Thumping Wingnut.” The invitation was in response to a recent podcast I released critiquing Matt’s denial of clear biblical teaching regarding man’s responsibility to humble themselves (see podcast page).
In this hangout, Matt Slick and I engaged in a thoughtful discussion over Calvinism (or Compatibilism) and Traditionalism (my non-Calvinistic Southern Baptist perspective). As I have noted, following other debates, there are often things that come to mind long after the discussion has ended that you wish were said. Here are some of those points of reflection:
1. At the 37 minute mark Matt says, “I don’t believe in determinism. I use determinism against Atheists. I’m not a determinist. You are misrepresenting my position… And I’ve talk with James White and he is not either. We do not believe in determinism…”
We go on a couple of tangents but I made a note of this and later brought it back up by introducing the article by John Hendryx from monergism.com that was sent to me by Phil Johnson and James White in a previous discussion. Here is what I read verbatim (at the 1:07 mark in our discussion):
“In order to understand this better theologians have come up with the term ‘compatibilism’ to describe the concurrence of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Compatibilism is a form of determinism and it should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism. It simply means that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. Our choices are not coerced …i.e. we do not choose against what we want or desire, yet we never make choices contrary to God’s sovereign decree. What God determines will always come to pass (Eph 1:11). In light of Scripture, (according to compatibilism), human choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism.”
Matt, after just denouncing determinism, says of this quote, “That’s good Calvinism.” (1:09) Do you see my frustration? On the one hand he denies being a determinist and then he affirms quotes like this which clearly state that Compatibilism “is a form a determinism and is not less deterministic than hard determinism.” What are we to do with this type of equivocation except continually call it out when we see it, as we did with Dr. James White HERE?
Later, in reference to the passage out of 2 Chronicles 12:7, which states:
“When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak.”
I asked Matt, “Do you believe God irresistibly humbled them and that’s why God didn’t destroy them, or do you believe they freely humbled themselves?”
And Matt answered, “I believe both are in action there, I think God enabled them to freely do it…” (1:12). This is exactly what I argued earlier, which Matt labeled “idolatry.” (more later on this point)
2. Throughout the discussion Matt continually insisted that the continual call to humility found in scripture (see verses below) are only for those who are already regenerated, not directed toward the lost. At the 45 minute mark I asked Matt if one has to repent in order to be forgiven and saved. I asked this to show that one has to be humble to admit they are a sinner and repent so as to be forgiven, which would be a clear indication this call is for the unregenerate prior to being forgiven. So, when I asked if one has to humbly repent in order to be forgiven, Matt said:
“Yes and no. A baby for example. I believe God can grant belief to infants. That’s Psalm 22:9, ‘You made me believe in you at my mother’s breast.’ So I believe that is possible. Now, could a baby have a cognitive repentance aspect of various sins he has committed? I don’t believe that’s possible…that’s just my opinion. I don’t know if that’s right or not. But I don’t believe in that situation you have to have an attitude of repentance in order to become a Christian. Or to become regenerated and saved. Because if you said this is what you have to do then it doesn’t apply to all situations then the statement has to be modified.”
So, here Matt seems to argue that in most normal salvation experiences one does have to humbly repent in order to be saved, but not in other special cases with infants who are made to believe? Is that what he meant by “yes and no?” I wish I had asked for more clarity because that point was a major contention in this discussion. God clearly calls the lost to humble themselves so as to be saved and it seems obvious that one would have to humble themselves in order to repent of sin so as to be forgiven.
3. At the 50 minute mark Matt talks about the “aseity of God,” which he seems to equate with the ‘inability of God to create contra-causally free moral creatures.’
(i.e. It is impossible for God to give man a quality that only He possesses…which begs the question that God designed a world where He alone possesses the ability to make contra-causally free choices.)
We all agree that God is not dependent upon anyone, but that fails to address the point of contention regarding the ability of God to create free moral creatures. James White denied that God has such an ability saying, “This is like asking if God is able to create a rock so big that he cannot move it.” And I rebutted, “No, it like asking if God is able to create a rock that He, in His Sovereign wisdom, chooses not to move, but instead grants the ability to move itself.”
For a better view of God’s aseity, lets consider what A.W. Tozer wrote in the classic book Knowledge of the Holy:
Almighty God, just because He is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God, that is precisely what we see.
Twentieth Century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater for our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. That we do exist is altogether of God’s free determination, not by our desert nor by divine necessity…
God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, chapter 22 “The Sovereignty of God”
Matt goes on to speak of the “communicable and non-communicable characteristics of God,” saying:
“There are communicable attributes like, God can love — we can love; God can hate — we can hate; God can think — we can think. He does it perfectly, we don’t do it perfectly. The non-communicable, or incommunicable attributes of God are such as: God is all knowing — we are not all knowing; God is everywhere — we are not everywhere; God is independent and Has aseity, but we do not. Now, whenever we take a non-communicable attribute of God, a quality that belongs to God alone and attribute it to a created thing we call that idolatry. If we were to say a created thing is independent of all things, that is idolatry.”
So, Matt PRESUMES (without biblical proof or even a logical argument) that the ability of contra-causal, or autonomous libertarian freedom, falls under the non-communicable attributes of God. Which is odd given that Matt later in the discussion admits that Adam, prior to the fall, may have been libertarianly free (1:06). Does that mean God granted Adam a non-communicable attribute of Himself but it was just lost in the fall? How is that not as equally “idolatrous” as what he accuses of me of believing?
Throughout the rest of the discourse Matt dismisses my view as “idolatry”on the basis that I am attributing to man a quality that is unique only to God, all the while equivocating on whether Adam himself was created with the very ‘non-communicable’ attribute in question…which would make his perspective equally as ‘idolatrous.’ (Maybe he does want to retract that statement after all?)
Wouldn’t it simplify things to include “FREE CHOICE” in the list of communicable attributes? There are no shortage of passages which clearly indicate that God has granted man the ability to make choices (the selection between available options). On what basis does Matt bring the presumption that God could not grant that attribute to man? And is it really idolatry to interpret the scripture to mean that mankind makes evil choices independently or autonomously of our perfectly Holy and Righteous God?
Consider the Word of God:
Jer. 7:31: They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.
Is. 1:18-20: “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
19 “If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
20 “But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.”
Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
1 Peter 5:5-6: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Isaiah 66:2: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
2 Kings 22:19: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”
2 Chronicles 12:12: Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.
Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Proverbs 3:34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
Zephaniah 2:3: Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Luke 1:52: He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
James 4:6: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”