Here is a podcast on this subject.
I saw this argument posed by a Christian in a debate with an Atheist recently and it reminded me of an important point. We should always be willing to objectively and honestly ask the question, “What if I’m wrong?”
What are the practical, real world consequences if what I believe, teach and practice is in error?
When it comes to the soteriological differences between the Calvinist and the Traditionalist, like myself, this question is especially pertinent. If non-Calvinists are wrong, what temporal or eternal harm have we really caused?
As I have said before, we are either rightly standing in defense of God’s glory or God has sovereignly determined for us to be wrong for the praise of His glory. If I am mistaken, no fewer people are going to heaven, no less glory will be given to God than what He decided and nothing I do will ultimately harm or hinder the desire of God for this temporal world or the eternal one to come. I literally have nothing practical to gain by converting to Calvinism. And I know if the claims of Calvinists are true and God wants me to become one, then I certainly will. In fact, I sincerely pray He converts me to adopt sound theology. I have no desire to teach false interpretations of scripture as I believe I did for many years, so I can honestly say I am open to correction.
I wonder how many Calvinists have objectively evaluated this question. I am not trying to aggravate my Calvinistic friends anymore so than Lacrae is trying to agitate Athesists by asking them to objectively consider the consequences if they are in error.
Let’s list some of the negative temporal and eternal effects that Calvinism has had if indeed it is wrong:
- Countless church splits.
- Much time, resources and energy wasted over the issue.
- Hyper anti-evangelism by some who take the view to their logical ends.
- Some repulsed by a seemingly monsterous view of God.
- Some falling into fatalistic handling of temptations and addictions (if God wants me to quit this addiction or resist this temptation He will give me the effectual grace to do so)
- God’s character of love, grace and genuinely providing salvation for every person being clouded and subverted.
- “Cage stage” Calvinists turning unbelievers off to God.
Austin Fischer, author of Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed,” recently wrote, “It seems the primary concern for Calvinists is making sure human’s can’t boast in salvation, whereas the primary concern for free-will theism is a recognizably good God.” What are Calvinists really accomplishing by converting believers to adopt Calvinism? Practically speaking, if Calvinism is correct, the Calvinist’s arguments are not going to determine who will or will not adopt Calvinism anyway and if Calvinism is false, then a well intending Calvinists shouldn’t want to risk converting others to a false interpretation anyway. Thus, there is no practical reason for Calvinists to promote Calvinism. It’s not worth the risk.
- There are rude non-Calvinists who turn the lost off to God too: Agreed, but this article is considering IF one view is right and the other one is wrong, and if Calvinism is right it is not as if rude Arminians aren’t here by God’s sovereign design. Rude Arminians are not going to repulse the effectually called elect of Calvinism and prevent them from their inevitable conversion.
- Calvinists don’t teach hyperism or fatalism: Agreed, which is why I said that some could take it further than the claims of the system which would create worse error (which has happened throughout history).
- We should believe the truth of scripture regardless of your perceived negative implications: Agreed, but again, if Calvinism is correct then God sovereignly decreed for me to perceive these negative implications and to write this post. So, if we’re contrasting objectively then I am still doing what is best for God’s self glorifying purposes.
- You are an idiot: By God’s unchangeable decree and for His greatest glory? I am okay with that! 😉
Here is a podcast on this subject.
91 thoughts on “What if I’m Wrong?”
It’s interesting how both sides say “As long as the other side doesn’t live *consistently* with their beliefs they’ll live as a Christian should” or some such. Most Christians who believe in free will think it’s completely bizarre that anyone would think that gives you grounds for boasting. This is what Calvinists say the logical outworking of the belief is. I definitely don’t want them to feel I twist the logical conclusions of their belief that way, yet even though I admire their reverence, I don’t think reverence is putting the causal initiative for everything on God. Yet we both really feel that way about the other. I’m absolutely sure a lot of the fighting over doctrine is at the very least encouraged by Satan. But what’s a plan to keep everyone loving yet firm, honest yet sincere, caring yet forthright? That’s a hard wire to walk. To be honest, I’ve rarely talked with a Calvinist that I felt the fruit of the Spirit really flowing through, but that could just be a coincidence, especially in this age where apostasy and lukewarmness seems becoming more common.
Should we judge a tree by its fruit? Are these things the fruit of Calvinism? We should think about it seriously at the least. I’m sure they’d argue they’re the true remnant, but anyone can claim that. At least some are more moderate in their acceptance of others. I certainly don’t see how thinking I have no real autonomous choice helps me in any way whatsoever to live more Biblically. I think some people struggle with legalism and then find relief under the grace of monergism. But even then, they don’t realize they are trusting God for it themselves. We can always like Peter start looking to ourselves. But if the judgment seat of God will simply be God rebuking non-Calvinists for not believing that they had no autonomous choice, they’d have no choice about it anyway… and although God might find that fair, there’d be nothing we could do about it. They can claim they can’t help believing in Calvinism since they were decreed too and we can say making free will an illusion just causes you to take your choices less seriously than you should.
I think we should all try to stay as humble and teachable as possible, as close to the Word as we possibly can, and as zealous for the truth as we can possibly be. Eternity is on the line here. To our own master we stand or fall, yet hope in all regards Christ is preached and exalted.
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13
Aside from the erroneous belief that libertarian free will is coherent, I’ve come to realize that an important flaw in Leighton’s argument is a lack of understanding of Calvinist predestination. I can’t totally fault him for this because many Calvinist don’t have a good grasp of this either. Intelligent Calvinists have always explained “means” as the mechanism God uses to predestine mankind (not some mystical hokus-pokus as Leighton likes to refer to it). The by-product of this lack of understanding is arguing against a straw-man (at least when it comes to normative Calvinism). And so his primary argument is in fact against hyper-Calvinism!
Leighton jokes that the Calvinist God has magically determined his new “traditional” view. It’s a good joke but the joke is on the hyper-Calvinist.
And lastly, the list of negative effects of Calvinism demonstrates an ignorance of the overwhelming contribution that Calvinists have had on the faith throughout history. In the 20th Century it is liberal theology that has done more to undermine the faith and turn people away from God. How many liberal theologians, scholars and philosophers are Calvinist?
Fair points. It seems that just like libertarian free will is incoherent to you, compatibility is completely incoherent to us, and it makes us incapable of considering it’s arguments without seeing it as, basically, hyper-Calvinism. Can we blame Arminian/Traditionalist beliefs for church splits and erroneous beliefs? I’m sure from your perspective we can.
The thing that really strikes me is how entrenched people are on these two sides because of the amount of time they spent solidifying the reasons for what they believe. I think we’ve got to respect that at least, these positions are not taken up without thought or study. From my perspective, I wish we would show Calvinists we can be as thoroughly scholarly and robust as they see themselves, and not just that—but hope that we both constantly work to outdo each other in showing respect and politeness in the areas we think differently. I’d like to win Calvinists over with kindness instead of beating them on the head, but I think both sides feel so strongly it’s hard to keep a “cold war” going. Just thinking about what builds bridges instead of burns them. I see a lot of bridge burning on both sides.
Thanks, I appreciate your response. I don’t really blame Arminian/Traditionalist beliefs for church splits. But I did want to point out the irony in response to Leighton’s and Austin Fischer’s negative effects of Calvinism. If I wanted to match blow for blow I could easily come up with a list of the negative effects of Arminianism.
I wholly agree with your sentiment concerning how we relate to each other. Though I don’t agree with Leighton’s views I continue to listen to his podcast because it helps to challenge and sharpen my own views (you know “iron sharpens iron”) and because of his irenic approach.
1. As already pointed out, we find compatibilism to be incoherent. I really don’t see what is in coherent about the ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action. Seems pretty straightforward and basic to me (like the definition of “choice”).
2. Your accusations of my not understanding Calvinists after I quote directly from notable scholarly Calvinists (whom you’ve denounced previously) only goes to prove I don’t understand YOUR brand of Calvinism, Mike (whatever that may be).
3. What do the means accomplish that is not accomplished by the irresistible/effectual work of regeneration, Mike? Be specific.
4. As noted, there are strong arguments that every form of Calvinism is hyper logically, but I specifically allowed for that distinction in my article.
5. If God didn’t sovereignly determine for me to believe my traditional views then who did, Mike? Do “normative” Calvinists not argue that God predetermines whatsoever comes pass? How does that avoid my desire to reject Calvinism and adopt Traditionalistic beliefs?
6. As noted, liberal theologians (like Satan himself) exist at the sovereign pleasure of God and only believe/act in accordance with His predetermined will for the praise of His glory, if Calvinism is true, so once again your argument crumbles under the weight of its own affirmations (unless you deny those affirmations in favor of some obscure PC language that restates a difference without a distinction so that you can maintain your “you guys just don’t get it” defense.)
No, you freely choose to remain uninformed. Question: If God knows what you are going to do can you do otherwise?
Leighton, these are good points you’re making. It might take me some time to really address them properly. I do have issues with the way some Calvinists express themselves, especially with regard to determinism, but I do hold to a traditional view of Calvinism. And in my readings hard determinism is not compatibilism. I do think “means” are an important distinction but it is hard to explain in a short post. As always I do appreciate your comments and challenges. “Iron sharpens iron.”
I love you Mike. We always have insightful and honest replies. All too rare and discussions like this.
I understand there are nuances from scholars and both perspectives and despite what may be perceived in my short matter of fact replies, I am willing to consider other alternatives. But so far, in my experience, the alternatives seem to be differences without a distinction by the use of more colorful PC type answers that when broken down mean the exact same thing.
Pastor Flowers writes, “If non-Calvinists are wrong, what temporal or eternal harm have we really caused?”
1 Corinthians 3
11 For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
If you are wrong, then you have been building with wood, hay, or straw. Rather than a reward, you incur a loss but you are still saved – this because it is God who saves.
We know that God’s elect will be saved regardless how we perceive God’s involvement in bringing them to salvation. God is intimately involved in the salvation of His elect – even the non-Calvinists concede this to an extent.
That one work for believers that God has ordained as the means to save people is prayer. Who among us is content to ignore God when it is our loved ones in jeopardy and reason that we need not pray as our loved ones will be saved if God has determined it? I bet none of us are – We all pray early and often for our loved ones because we know that it is God who saves.
People may talk like non-Calvinists but they pray like Calvinists.
Do you believe I could have willingly done otherwise than build with wood, hay or straw? If not, then my point remains. If so, you just affirmed LFW and my point is made.
Sorry but you just don’t understanding of Calvinist predestination.
I was predestined to not understand it I supposed 😉
Love ya bro 🙂
No, you freely choose to remain uninformed. Question: If God knows what you are going to do can you do otherwise?
The philosophical speculations of infinite knowledge don’t change our affirmations regarding LFW.
I’ve never claimed we can do otherwise than what is infinitely known. I’ve always maintained that we make actual choices (selection between available options). I acknowledge the distinction between divine knowledge of what happens in the temporal world and divine determination of what happens in the temporal world. Does your view allow for a distinction bw those two concepts Mike?
You say: “The philosophical speculations of infinite knowledge don’t change our affirmations regarding LFW.”
But they should. LFW is a philosophical concept, and philosophical paradox should concern you. In my readings Calvinists are not shy in pointing of their own philosophical paradox.
I’m not exactly sure what you are getting at asking if I make a distinction between divine knowledge and divine determination? This is, of course, the divine paradox that both parties have to deal with. This paradox makes philosophical speculations regarding determinism and LFW equally mysterious—and it puts them on the same level. This is why I’m a compatiblist—neither determinism nor LFW make sense on their own.
Mike, as I’ve noted before we too are Compatiblistic in the sense that we believe both sovereignty and human freedom is compatible but we believe they’re compatible for different reasons, because we define those two terms very differently.
Compatiblists are affirming meticulous theistic determinism (defined as sovereignty) and human voluntary action (doing as one is predetermined to desire, defined as free will)
We define both free will and divine sovereignty differently than the compatibilists.
For us free will is the ability to make a choice. The ability of the wheel to refrain refrain from giving moral action. Or selecting between two available options. These are basic common English definitions of the word. Nowhere except inside Compatiblistic philosophy is free will defined as one acting in accordance with his predetermined desires. That is nothing more than animal instinct. And sovereignty means to have power and the authority to do whatever one wills, which no one is denying. The question is what does God will to do with his creation? Does he will to meticulously determine the choices on the actions of those he hold responsible? Or does he want for moral creatures to make free moral choices?
Your system, as reflected in your answer above, does not make the distinction between God’s knowledge of what happens in the temporal world and God’s determination of what happens in the temporal world.
That is a problem for your system because basic language draws a distinction between knowledge and determination. There would be no reason for the Bible to use both words in regard to God unless there was a distinction worth the difference between those two words.
Finally, if you indeed have listen to my podcast, which I appreciate you doing, then you know I most certainly appeal to the mystery of divine knowledge. I simply do not draw the conclusion from that mystery that knowledge must equal determination.
Godfrey choices are mysterious and you’re willing to live with that mystery so why not live with the mystery of God creating people with that capacity? It’s interesting how you call the paradoxes of your system mysterious while labeling ours incoherent.
Leighton, once again, some really good points. I really need to read these posts over a few times and take some time to consider what you are saying—there’s just so much here to consider. I don’t think you are entirely correct about the common definitions of free will, or at least you are presuming too much from the common understanding. I once wrote to William Lane Craig and asked if the definition of free will was the ability to do otherwise. He wrote back that the definition was a choice that was not coerced.
I have considered that given that I see Calvinistic Compatiblisim as a divine paradox why not just look at LFW as a divine paradox as well. Honestly, that is a possibility. The problems I have with this are issue that I have expressed before. LFW contradicts the Euthyphro Dilemma response and the Free Will Theodicy can not be gleaned from scripture (even the issue of the death of babies and the mentally challenged doesn’t conform well with LFW). But the main issue I have is with God’s free will. God can not sin. It is not that He doesn’t not desire to sin but that He can not sin. In this God is incapable of doing otherwise. God can not have LFW if the definition include the ability to do otherwise.
I hope you understand that I am trying to approach this as honestly and as objectively as I can. I grew up in a reformed baptist church but thought that Calvinism was incoherent. I then attended an Arminian church. Through the preaching of a non-Calvinist pastor who’s biblical interpretations I questioned I went on a journey of biblical and philosophical research. The result of which convinced me of a monergism view (but I continue to read and research this subject).
I have wondered why God would determine his elect, which would include Arminians and Traditionalist, to be unable to understand a monergist doctrine. But I have the same issue with Presbyterians and Dispensationalists. I often wonder why the Holy Spirit tolerates divisions in the church.
Perhaps some day we can talk at length on some of these matters. For now I will keep listening and considering. I’m not too proud to flip back to the other side if I can be convinced that I am mistaken.
Mike Ranieri writes, “This is why I’m a compatiblist—neither determinism nor LFW make sense on their own.”
From what little I have read, the “compatibilist” doesn’t say much more than that determinism is consistent with LFW. Then they say as you do, “neither determinism nor LFW make sense on their own.” So, neither makes sense but for sure, if we could make sense of them, they would be compatible. Have you come across a better explanation of compatibilism than that – a nice internet citation?
Pastor Flowers writes, “I was predestined to not understand it I supposed ;-)”
But certainly, that is consistent with God’s omniscience and the freedom God has given you.
Does not James tell us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him…What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
So, if it is the case that you are the one who does not understand, the fault lies with you and not with God.
Pastor Flowers asks, “Do you believe I could have willingly done otherwise than build with wood, hay or straw? If not, then my point remains. If so, you just affirmed LFW and my point is made.”
Because God is omniscient, that which you do is certain and cannot be otherwise else God is not omniscient. However, God’s omniscient knowledge of that which you do is not the cause of what you do.
The question concerns that which “causes” you to do things the way you do them. Here, LFW is important. If you lacked LFW, then you would still be controlled by your sin nature and could not be a believer – thus you would not be building anything on Christ.
If a person is building on Christ, He is a believer and has LFW and has exercised that LFW to choose Christ – the actual decision was a no-brainer as I am sure you can attest.
You now are able to exercise LFW as you build on the foundation of Christ. Still, God, in His omniscience, knows exactly what you will do but again, God’s omniscience does not cause you to do one things or another. What is important here – your knowledge of the Scriptures and an accurate understanding of the Scriptures. Ignorance of either the Scriptures or an incorrect understanding of the Scriptures can influence your decision to use hay or gold as you build but, as a believer, you are exercising LFW.
In the end, you willingly choose how you will build, but you cannot do otherwise than God’s omniscience requires.
Have you reached the point where you realize that you must deny God’s omniscient knowledge of the future to get what you want? Or are you willing to concede that God is omniscient with regard to the future and that sets the context in which the individual’s LFW must be exercised?
I don’t believe scholars from my perspective are attempting to conclude that we are able to do other than what God infinitely knows. That is a blatant mischaracterization of our perspective. That may be the conclusion of compatibilism and Open Theism, but it’s never been a conclusion we have drawn. We appeal to the mystery of the infinite before drawing that type of linear finite conclusion.
It is good to hear you a firm, along with us, that God’s knowledge of our choices is not equal to being the cause of our choices. That is a step in the right direction at least.
You, unlike many scholars from the Compatibilistic worldview, affirm LFW. That alone makes you pretty unique and thus our differences may not be as stark as the differences I have with someone like Jonathan Edwards or John piper.
In reading your entire post it seems that you and I are in full agreement with regard to my doctrinal views and the cause of how they were built. Neither of us are attempting to assert that my choices are beyond God’s infinite knowledge. Again I think that is just a misunderstanding or a mischaracterization of our view.
You asked if I have come to the point where I realize that I must deny God’s omniscient knowledge of the future to get what I want. But I believe the fault is revealed in your question. What is “the future” to an infinite omniscient being? That question is incoherent because it presumes that an infinite being exists with in time and his knowledge is of that which is in his own future. Again, absolutely incoherent and inconceivable to a finite mind.
Your final question reveals the same inconsistency. Asking if I am willing to concede that God is omniscient with regard to the future is like asking if I’m willing to concede that God is not infinite or omniscient. As stated before this is all philosophical mumbo-jumbo. And I don’t say that disrespectfully. I simply mean that it is finite speculations about infinite matters.
As noted in our other conversations, both sides have their own mysteries and so the question is which mystery are you willing to live with. Are you willing to live with the Concept that God is in anyway shape or form culpable for the sinful choices of man? It doesn’t appear so based upon your affirmation of LFW. Yet that is a stark divergent from most Compatibilistic scholars. I actually commend you for that divergence, as inconsistent as it may be.
Pastor Flowers writes, “I don’t believe scholars from my perspective are attempting to conclude that we are able to do other than what God infinitely knows.”
I just meant to clarify in my mind that this was your position. You are on the same page as the Calvinists regarding the omniscience of God.
Then, “It is good to hear you a firm, along with us, that God’s knowledge of our choices is not equal to being the cause of our choices.”
Again, you and the Calvinists are on the same page.
Pastor Flowers writes, “You, unlike many scholars from the Compatibilistic worldview, affirm LFW. That alone makes you pretty unique and thus our differences may not be as stark as the differences I have with someone like Jonathan Edwards or John piper.”
I believe that Edwards and Piper refer to the unsaved as lacking LFW – this because LFW is negated by the sin nature until restored by grace in regeneration.
Then, “What is “the future” to an infinite omniscient being? That question is incoherent because it presumes that an infinite being exists with in time and his knowledge is of that which is in his own future. Again, absolutely incoherent and inconceivable to a finite mind.”
“Future” as perceived by finite humans. The finite mind sees the past, present, and future. As we both take God’s omniscience to encompass all future events (as perceived by us finite humans), we both reject Open Theism.
Then, “…both sides have their own mysteries and so the question is which mystery are you willing to live with.”
I think the “mystery” part is overplayed – people just don’t want to deal with difficult questions.
Then, “Are you willing to live with the Concept that God is in anyway shape or form culpable for the sinful choices of man?”
God is “responsible” for the sinful choices people make, because God is present with people when they implement their sinful choices, He certainly knows beforehand what is coming down, and God makes the decision whether to stop that sin or do nothing and let the sin play out – God makes the critical final decision, not man. People are following their sinful natures, so God has no part in causing or enticing people to sin – the sinful nature has negated LFW in the unsaved.
You have asked the same question twice:
“Question: If God knows what you are going to do can you do otherwise?”
The answer to your question is that we can never do otherwise than we in fact end up doing.
But how is that a problem?
Say that with regards to posting in response to your question that I had only two alternative possibilities (there are more, but to keep it simple, let’s assume there are only two possible responses). One possibility is that I choose not to respond to your question (call that P-1). The other possibility is that I choose to respond to your question (call that P-2). If my choice is to actually P-1, then God knew that was the choice that I was going to make. If that is the choice that I in fact choose to make then it is impossible for me to choose to respond to your question. If my choice is to actually P-2, then God knew that was the choice that I was going to make. If that is the choice that I in fact choose to make then it is impossible for me to not to choose to respond to your question.
The impossibility of doing otherwise than you actually end up doing is not because libertarian free will does not exist. No, it is due to the reality of choice making and its relation to time. BEFORE I make the choice of P-1 or P-2 (if my choice involves LFW) then I can choose either possibility. But the nature of choice is that once I do make one choice (when two mutually exclusive options are present), then I exclude the other choice. If I choose P-1, then I exclude P-2 (and vice versa).
Consider what would be involved if WE COULD CHOOSE OTHERWISE THAN WE DO IN FACT CHOOSE TO DO *****at the same time***** and *****in the same circumstances*****. It would mean that we could do both P-1 and P-2 at the same time!
That would mean that we could actualize a contradiction (choose to respond to your question and choose not to respond to your question at the SAME TIME which is impossible).
Most of us understand this about the nature of choosing, so exactly how is your question a problem?
If you want to add God foreknowing what choices we will in fact choose to make, there is still no problem. Because God’s foreknowledge is of WHAT WE WILL IN FACT DO. If we will in fact choose to do P-1, then God foreknows we will choose to do P-1, because that is what we will do. If we will in fact choose to do P-2, then God foreknows we will choose to do P-2. What God does not foreknow is that we will choose to do both P-1 and P-2 at the same time. God also does not foreknow what WE MAY OR MAY NOT CHOOSE TO DO (but what we will in fact choose to do).
So again, what’s the problem Mike?
Seems to me that you are trying to create a problem for proponents of LFW WHEN THERE IS NONE.
Yeah, I asked my question twice because I mistakenly put it in the wrong place, sorry about that.
Thanks for the explanation it was very good. But I was just trying to make a simple point. This question is related of the Time Traveler’s Paradox. Some philosophers believe that time travel is impossible because of this paradox, while there are other philosophers and physicists that can explain the paradox. William Lane Craig is a philosopher who agrees that time travel is impossible given the A-theory of time. He also defines LFW as being non-coercive and uses Monism to maintain a LFW that is compatible with cause and effect.
I’m in the midst of studying Craig’s time theory. It’s kind of funny because some Leighton’s more philosophical views posit God outside of time while Craig argues for a time bound God. There are many variation within the non-Calvinist camp.
The point I wanted to make was that if we accept the paradox of divine foreknowledge and free will as compatible than both Calvinists and non-Calvinists are closer in agreement than they realize.
You stated in an earlier post that you have a “main issue” with LFW:
“But the main issue I have is with God’s free will. God can not sin. It is not that He doesn’t not desire to sin but that He can not sin. In this God is incapable of doing otherwise. God can not have LFW if the definition include the ability to do otherwise.”
Allow me to first say what I believe, as I hold BOTH to the fact that we sometimes have LFW, God sometimes has LFW AND yet God cannot sin, he cannot choose to sin as it is against His nature. I believe that God has a fixed nature and has had this nature from eternity (i.e. He is what He is, His nature never changes, He is morally perfect and as morally perfect being He cannot sin).
While some might believe or argue that the heart of LFW is the ability to do otherwise, I think it is simpler (i.e. LFW involves having and making choices, e.g. if you have a genuine choice between two different alternative possibilities and you can choose either one [but not both simultaneously], then with regard to that specific choice you are experiencing LFW). Another issue if you are going to argue that LFW means the ability to do otherwise, is WHEN do you have the ability to do otherwise? Do you have the ability to do otherwise once you have made your choice? No. Can you do otherwise than what you end up actually choosing to do? No. So say that you can do otherwise, when precisely does this ability exist? Well if it exists it must exist BEFORE you make your choice, BEFORE you end up making the choice that you end up making.
Let’s use a very concrete and simple yet famous example: God’s choice to create the universe. Did God have a choice when it came to creating the universe out of nothing? Most Christians have believed that Yes he had a choice (the two options, the two alternative possibilities that He had to choose from were to either not create the universe or to create the universe). He chose to create the universe. Did he have and make a choice (my definition of LFW)? Yes, he had the choice to create the universe or the choice to not create the universe. Could he have done otherwise? After he chose to create could he then choose not to create? No. Could he have chosen to not create the universe or create the universe at the same time? No, that would be to actualize a contradiction and God does not actualize contradictions. So if He could do otherwise, when would that be possible? Had to be when he was contemplating whether or not to create or not create the universe.
These same things seem to be true of us when it comes to our having and making choices. We first have a choice between two possibilities, we then select one while excluding and not choosing the other. That is the nature of choosing in relation to time. Now I think all of this is simple and most people understand this and also live by these simple principles. For example people will say “well you can’t unring the bell” meaning that once you make a particular choice you cannot take it back, if you choose to ring the bell then you cannot do otherwise and choose to not ring the bell, it is too late, if you already chose to ring the bell.
Now how does these facts about the nature of choosing fit with a person’s nature? A person may sometimes experience LFW, but in choosing they will always choose in line with their nature (this is not the same as saying their nature makes their choices), it does mean that our nature will allow us to make some choices and not others. Human nature does not include the choice to fly unaided without wings or apparatus by merely flapping our arms (though a bird’s nature, a bird with operating wings, can fly unaided by flapping its wings). Human nature does involve having a mind and being able to conceptualize (i.e. that means while we cannot fly unaided, we have a mind that can devise and develop airplanes, rockets, helicopters, jet packs, etc. by which we can fly, and we can fly faster and further than any bird with its wings).
God has a perfect moral nature, which means that while He sometimes experiences LFW (e.g. creating the world or not creating the world, having mercy on someone or not having mercy on someone, choosing to heal a person in answer to prayer or choosing not to heal a person in answer to prayer, etc. etc. etc.). he will not choose to sin. But here you have to be careful, not being able to MAKE A PARTICULAR CHOICE is not the same as not ever having and making your own choices (i.e. not being able to make a particular choice does not mean you never have LFW)
The way to explain this is to think in terms of the capacity to have and make choices (the capacity for LFW) and an individual person’s RANGE OF CHOICES. A person may sometimes have LFW and yet their individual RANGE OF CHOICES does not allow them to make a particular choice. With God we know He sometimes has LFW as he has and makes choices (where he could choose either possibility but only chooses one, e.g. Creation of the world). People’s range of choices varies.
I like to use the example of Donald Trump and I when it comes to purchasing million dollar real estate properties. My range of choices does not include being able to buy multiple million dollar properties: Trump’s range of choices DOES include being able to buy multiple million dollar properties. Do we conclude from this that Trump has free will but I do not? No, we conclude that while we both have and make choices (i.e. have free will at times) our range of choices is very different. On the other hand if we were to contrast martial arts abilities, as a black belt, there are physical movements that I can do that I doubt the “Donald” can do. Do we conclude from this comparison that I have free will and He does not? No, again we are talking differing ranges of choices. We can apply this same analysis to God and his choices. Does God ever experience LFW? Yes. And yet his range of choices does not include being able to sin, He also cannot lie, and He also cannot deny Himself. So while there are some choices God cannot do, this does not mean he is weak or that he lacks LFW, it means His range of choices does not include certain choices.
So Mike when you say that God cannot sin, I agree, and my explanation is not that he is not omnipotent, rather, my explanation is that as a morally perfect being, choosing to sin is not within his range of choices. So if you think of LFW as having and making your own choices and you keep in mind that different persons have differing range of choices: it is easy to maintain both that God sometimes experiences LFW AND at the same time that it is impossible for God to sin, to lie, to deny Himself as these choices are not within His range of choices.
Most people who hold to LFW define it as “the ability to do otherwise.” This is “the” point of disagreement between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. If the definition does not include this and is as you have stated than there is no disagreement on the free will issue and we can move on to other points of contention.
Mike Raniere writes, “Most people who hold to LFW define it as “the ability to do otherwise.” This is “the” point of disagreement between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.”
The point of disagreement is whether the “unsaved” have “the ability to do otherwise.” Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists can agree that LFW comprises the ability to do otherwise. The argument is over Total Depravity – whether the unsaved are “unable” to choose salvation. That is the distinction between Pelagianism (the unsaved are inherently able to choose salvation) and Calvinism (the unsaved are inherently unable to choose salvation). Then, the discussion moved to Arminians (God’s gives grace enabling all unsaved to choose salvation) vs Calvinism (God gives grace enabling only to His elect to choose salvation).
“Most people who hold to LFW define it as “the ability to do otherwise.”
You are right, most people include “the ability to do otherwise” in their conception of LFW. I would also say that you have to determine exactly what they mean by the “ability to do otherwise” (as there are compatibilists who also include the ability to do otherwise if the desires had been different). So the best thing to do is find out exactly what the person you are speaking with means by the phrase.
That being said, the idea that the ability to do otherwise is the essence of libertarian freedom is not true of all libertarians. To cite two major proponents of LFW, William Craig does not define it that way nor does Dave Hunt (Hunt is someone that I know personally who is currently working on this million dollar project regarding the nature of free will; he has written a lot on this issue including contributing to the four views of foreknowledge book).
“This is “the” point of disagreement between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. If the definition does not include this and is as you have stated than there is no disagreement on the free will issue and we can move on to other points of contention.”
This is not quite accurate as some five point Calvinists actually hold to LFW in some situations (e.g. some will posit that before salvation no one has LFW but after people are saved then believers have LFW, which explains how believers can have differing convictions on issues of Christian liberty) . For example a friend of mine, Greg Koukl, who runs a very good apologetics organization (STAND TO REASON) holds to all five points of TULIP and also holds to LFW being present in some situations. Now it is true that most Calvinists reject LFW and reject the ability to do otherwise (i.e. if all is decreed by God, then we always have to do what God has decreed and so it is impossible for us to do otherwise than what God has decreed).
THE real consistent disagreement between most Calvinists and non-Calvinists is that Calvinists are determinists (usually compatibilists) and non-Calvinists are non-determinists (libertarians).
Thanks for this response. You are correct. It is hard to discuss these issues because everyone has there own particular slant on the definitions. I myself define compatibilist determinism quite differently than hard determinism, and would strongly disagree with Calvinists who hold to hard determinism. So to be more specific, when I say “the ability to do otherwise” I mean the ability to sin. If LFW must include the ability to sin, and by this I mean the ability to reject God, than I believe that LFW can not exist.
Mike Ranieri writes, “So to be more specific, when I say “the ability to do otherwise” I mean the ability to sin. If LFW must include the ability to sin, and by this I mean the ability to reject God, than I believe that LFW can not exist.”
I don’t believe you need to go this far. The problem I see with LFWl is that the statements on it are fairly shallow – though accurate. LFW includes “the ability to do otherwise” and it is “genuine and free.” So what does this mean? I have offered the following before to describe LFW.
1. A person must have an awareness of the options available. (e.g., accept salvation; reject salvation)
2. A person must have some sense of the value inherent in the options that exist. (e.g., eternal life; eternal death)
3. A person must be able to think rationally in making a choice.
With regard to (1), LFW, or contra-causal freedom, says that the most basic choice that is required is A and ~A.
With regard to (2), the person must have a sense of the costs and benefits of choosing A and ~A.
With regard to (3), the person is not forced or compelled to choose A or ~A based on the relative values of A or ~A but rationally considers the choices with their values, and his choice of A or ~A is rational.
LFW does not require that a person be indifferent to the options presented and to be satisfied by flipping a coin in making a decision. In the case of salvation, a person exercising LFW would always choose salvation as this is the rational choice. Any person rejecting salvation cannot be exercising LFW as it is an irrational decision in the face of the evidence.
There is no reason, that I see, for a person exercising LFW to be denied the ability to sin or reject God.
“Thanks for this response. You are correct. It is hard to discuss these issues because everyone has there own particular slant on the definitions.”
Yes, I was just trying to clarify this point, examine what definition a particular person is operating from.
“So to be more specific, when I say “the ability to do otherwise” I mean the ability to sin.”
Mike did you understand my discussion of what it means to say that one person may have a different range of choices than another?
As I said before, God sometimes experiences LFW, at the same time, due to his unchanging and perfect moral nature he cannot sin. Choosing to sin is not within His range of choices: just like choosing to fly unaided is not within the range of choices of human persons.
“If LFW must include the ability to sin, and by this I mean the ability to reject God, than I believe that LFW can not exist.”
But LFW does not have to include the ability to sin. A person can experience LFW and yet be incapable of sinning (this is true of God at all times due to his unchanging perfect moral nature where sinning is not within His range of choices; it is also true of glorified believers who will also experience LFW in the eternal state and yet also be incapable of sin, sin will not be within their range of choices).
Seems to me Mike that understanding and applying the concept of a person’s range of choices eliminates the claim that to have LFW one must be able to sin.
And regarding Dave Hunt, I believe that if you had read more in the area of foreknowledge and free will you would be familiar with this Dave Hunt (not the one you are confusing him with):
I think I understood you. You asked me to clarify my stance and I did (as succinctly ask I could).
I understand that a definition of free will is the availability of a range of choices, and not necessarily all choices. But my point has always been that many people hold to the definition of LFW as the ability to do otherwise or to have available the opposite choice. I hope I have made it clear that this is not my position and that this is what I am arguing against.
If there is a disagreement between you and I it look like it may be semantical. I wouldn’t use the term libertarian with free will because of the above definition confusion but I can agree with the definition and explanation you have give here. So perhaps we are in agreement.
The Dave Hunt (David P. Hunt) reference is a “dig” but I’ll accept it and just thank you for the referral. I just googled his name and a number of interesting articles have come up and a very interesting book. Thanks for your patience.
“I understand that a definition of free will is the availability of a range of choices, and not necessarily all choices.”
Ok, that is progress, as we really do not have a choice unless more than one option is available to us when we are choosing.
“But my point has always been that many people hold to the definition of LFW as the ability to do otherwise or to have available the opposite choice.”
I think people often talk this way because they are thinking if I can choose to do this, then I also can choose to do the opposite which is not this but that. And in most cases this is true. Philosophers speak of this as free being the ability to do an action or refrain from doing that action (which again with many is thought to be the opposite).
“If there is a disagreement between you and I it look like it may be semantical. I wouldn’t use the term libertarian with free will because of the above definition confusion but I can agree with the definition and explanation you have give here. So perhaps we are in agreement.”
I primarily use the term “libertarian free will” to contrast it with deterministic or “compatibilist free will”. But most of the time I just speak of having and making choices because if all of our choices are decreed by God then we may MAKE A CHOICE, but we never HAVE A CHOICE.
“The Dave Hunt (David P. Hunt) reference is a “dig” but I’ll accept it and just thank you for the referral. I just googled his name and a number of interesting articles have come up and a very interesting book.”
It was not meant to be a “dig” it is just that I see people (not sure if it was you or someone else) talk about how they have read on the subject of free will, foreknowledge, determinism, etc. and yet you can tell from their comments that they have not even read the most relevant scholars, books and articles on the subject. Whenever you decide to research something or study something beyond a superficial depth you need to consider who are the most prominent people speaking on that subject and also looking at what they have to say. That means that you have to consider what the key people are saying. In this area if you do a lot of reading the key people whose writings are most often cited, and cited over and over include John Martin Fischer, Kevin Timpe, Nelson Pike, Robert Kane, Peter Van Inwagen, William Lane Craig, William Hasker, Thomas Flint, Alfred Freddoso, Jonathan Kvanvig, Alvin Plantinga, William Ockham, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Augustine, Luis De Molina, DAVID HUNT, etc. etc.
Regarding Hunt, he has written some major articles on these subjects. In the four views book (I think you know that series, they will take a topic and then have three or four different people present three or four different positions on the topic, that way you get to see what different people say on the topic, you also see their interactions with one another how they critique each other and what points they make) **on foreknowledge** he took the simple foreknowledge position (Paul Helm took the Calvinist position, William Lane Craig the Molinist position).
You cannot read extensively on this subject without coming across Hunt. He was given a major grant/a lot of money, by the Templeton Foundation to do research on this and is going to put out a book on the subject of foreknowledge and free will. I figure anyone who has read extensively in this area would know who THIS David Hunt is. When people then confuse him with the other Dave Hunt, who is deceased and wrote nothing substancial on these subjects (unless you consider his interactions with James White on calvinism to be substantial): I’m thinking “these folks must not have been reading much in this area. Even if you disagree with David Hunt, you will keep coming across his name and his writings if you read extensively in this area.
Another great response. I just checked my library for Divine Foreknowledge Four Views and it looks like I have read David Hunt. It has been a while since I’ve read this book and unfortunately Hunt’s name was the one I forgot about. Sorry about that. I think I might re-read this book. I have read a lot on this subject and most of the names you mentioned I’m aware of (though not all of them stick in my mind). Currently I’m going thorough Kane’s Oxford Handbook of Free Will. A book that Hunt has contributed to that looks very interesting is the Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology: Volume 2. Anyway, I certainly agree with you about researching your subject and reading the relevant scholars. When it comes to the difficult subjects of free will and predestination it is so important to really understand the ideas in depth. If there are any books or articles you find interesting please let me know or send me a link. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m still learning.
Mike, IVP’s God & Time: Four Views is also good if you haven’t read it already. And, Robert, you forgot to mention Boyd as a contributor in the Foreknowledge book… was that intentional or a Freudian slip! ☺
Robert writes, “I primarily use the term “libertarian free will” to contrast it with deterministic or “compatibilist free will”.”
The problem here is that you have never defined what you mean by the terms, “libertarian free will”, “determinism,” and “compatibilist free will.” Without such definitions, the reader must insert his own definitions which are probably not your definitions.
Has anyone ever done so – beyond the superficial definitions that Mike is forced to use because there is nothing else?
One other thing. I thought Dave Hunt had passed away.
Robert writes, “…Dave Hunt (Hunt is someone that I know personally who is currently working on this million dollar project regarding the nature of free will; he has written a lot on this issue including contributing to the four views of foreknowledge book).”
If this were the Dave Hunt, Christian Apologist associated with The Berean Call website, then he died in 2013.
Who is the Dave Hunt of whom you refer?
Robert did a great job but just to add a little to another free will theist variation to your answer: when you say:
God can not sin. (or some such action God cannot do by virtue of it’s moral qualities)
My answer would be similar to Robert’s but with a minor adjustment in that I think the greatest conceivable being (which is one way I’d define God) must necessarily have the ability to choose what it will be (so then God’s nature flows from his autonomy). That’s not a huge but only a subtle difference.
So what does that mean for God’s LFW, it means God’s nature is a past LFW choice, and that’s why he cannot act differently. I cannot as Robert nicely puts it “un-ring” the bells of my past LFW choices, and we say, God cannot either. So we say that uncertainty is not a necessity for the possibility to do otherwise. God chose to never lie the way I chose pizza for dinner, and neither of us can currently do differently, but that is because our choice has been made, not because we have no choice.
Another thing I’d point out is that I don’t really see LFW as a paradox but more as something supernatural and metaphysical. In that regard it is necessarily difficult to define, just like a human soul or God himself is difficult to define. If you insist I define LFW under a mechanistic or physical framework, I admit I simply cannot.
There are paradoxes and then there are absurdities. God can not create a rock that is too heavy for Him to lift is an absurdity. God choosing His own nature is an absurdity. The nature is intrinsic. In humans the base nature is genetic and then it grows and develops from environment and experience. And for the Christian the Holy Spirit effects and directs the nature. But God’s divine nature is constant and unchanging. God’s nature is part of His very existence.
The Euthyphro Dilemma is a faults dilemma because God neither chooses the good because it is good nor is the good good because God choose it. God’s nature is the essence of good. The good and God are synonymous.
It is absurd to say that God chooses His nature because God has to exist in order to choose His nature which is part of His existence, but if He already exists than He does not need to choose to exist.
God lifting a rock he can’t lift is simply a loss in meaning due to inaccurately using words. Of course God can’t “sleep Tuesday over the fast blue” and that doesn’t show anything because it has not a real correlation to anything in reality.
You accept paradoxes, but not “real” paradoxes I guess. So you are one of those people who make God a *part* of creation instead of completely *above* creation. This ends up with a couple of negative consequences in my estimation. Not just a lower view of God, but a constant attempt to take Scriptural truth and try to cram it into the logic of limited and faulty human understanding.
God can’t do what to you think is absurd? Really? That’s the hill you want to die on? I don’t think the Bible is for you, then. The message of the Cross is *absurd* to human wisdom. There is something called revelation about things that are supernatural. God’s thoughts and ways are beyond tracing out and higher than the heavens.
You say “the nature is intrinsic.” That’s your argument for saying it’s absurd that God could have no say in his own nature, but just has to play whatever hand he is dealt by something other than his own choice. Yet he allows humans the dignity to choose whether they will be a noble or ignoble character.
If God has to play by some arbitrary rules imposed on him by some ubiquitous principle, and I know many intelligent people accept that, to me he is not the greatest conceivable being. Obviously, talking about stuff like this, we can’t consult some manual or rule book, so I think a lot of intuitive feeling comes into play. But I think everything I said matches up pretty well with Scripture and I’ve explained how in previous posts.
I think the Calvinist, Arminian, and wide range of compatibilists are all logically inconsistent when trying to affirm a non-sequential immutable omniscience for God! Once any of them say “determination” there is an acknowledgement of sequence and change within the omniscience of God! And if such a sequence exists – before and after His determination, then sprinkle in a little freewill for God and you have a view of omniscience compatible with the Scriptural account of human history that has always been, and always will be, partly determined and partly open.
It is equally illogical, as Craig points out, to think of God’s reality as not linear from now on. But “from everlasting to everlasting” affirms that is has always been linear, and Craig only posits a non-linear, non-sequential reality before creation to stay main stream with an immutable omniscience base on his acceptance of Molinism. No one should affirm that this creation was necessary but instead that it became determined at some point, otherwise this creation was not a free-choice for God and thus part of His nature since it was eternally fixed in His omniscience as a necessity.
brianwagner writes, “Once any of them say “determination” there is an acknowledgement of sequence and change within the omniscience of God!”
“Determination” is the acknowledgement of sequence and change within that which God creates. God determined to do certain things with His creation (Calvinists say all things, others are willing to admit to some things). Determination is uniquely associated with a finite creation. God has not determined anything about Himself – He did not determine that He would be omnipotent or omnipresent or omniscient or all wise or… The finite mind cannot conceive how the omniscient can be; but it can consider what the infinite entails if only because the infinite God reveals it.
I have been reading Charnock on the omnipresence of God. There are many verses in the Scriptures that one might consider apart from the totality of the Scriptures and argue that God is not omnipresent. The style of argument seems to mirror that which is used by Open Theists in saying that God does not know all the future.
brianwagner writes, “But “from everlasting to everlasting” affirms that is has always been linear,…”
The term, “from everlasting to everlasting,” is from the perspective of the finite mind. The finite thinks in terms of a past, present and future from a point in time, so there can be a present that then has an everlasting past and everlasting future. Take away the finite creation and God is. There is no “point” on which to fix a past, present, and future. There is only God and God is. God refers to Himself as everlasting when speaking to finite creatures to provide a sense of His presence but otherwise, He describes Himself as “I am.” God, as “I am,” has no past, no present, no future.
Happy Thanksgiving Roger! I hope you have an enjoyable day and that my following comments will not add any anxiety! 🙂
I look forward to the day when you might see how your view of immutable omniscience (which makes the act of divine determination impossible or non-sensical) is not only illogical, but strikes at the clarity, integrity and authority of Scripture.
You say – “The finite mind cannot conceive how the omniscient can be; but it can consider what the infinite entails if only because the infinite God reveals it.” Then you say – “from everlasting to everlasting is from the perspective of the finite mind.” Is God only revealing most things about Himself from man’s “perspective”? This seems to make the whole of Scripture from man’s perspective, as if God could not tell us about Himself with the same words you use!
You willingly put all your philosophical baggage concerning immutable, non-sequential, reality for God on one self-declaration “I am”, even though the OT context gives no hint for it. And the rest of Scripture gives a different “perspective”!
You said – “He describes Himself as ‘I am.’ God, as ‘I am,’ has no past, no present, no future.” But you know that clearly goes against God’s self-revelation – “I am… the one who is, who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1:8, cf, 1:4, 4:8, 11:17). You can call that God using man’s perspective, but then I have as much right to say that your interpretation of “I am” is God using man’s perspective in contradiction to the tenor of Scripture!
Unless we get our definitions from the context of Scripture, instead of imposing definitions upon Scripture from philosophy, we undermine the clarity, integrity and authority of Scripture itself!
brianwagner writes, ” I hope you have an enjoyable day and that my following comments will not add any anxiety!”
Your comments never cause me anxiety. I like them and am anxiously awaiting to your response to Charnock.
Then, you write, “I look forward to the day when you might see how your view of immutable omniscience (which makes the act of divine determination impossible or non-sensical) is not only illogical, but strikes at the clarity, integrity and authority of Scripture.”
It is certain that God is immutable for some things – God is good and is not becoming more “good.” Same with omnipotence and His eternality. You raise the issue of God’s knowledge of the future which encompasses His wisdom and understanding. If God increases in knowledge, He also increase in understanding and in wisdom. There is the issue of God’s ability to have an original thought, but the issue here is whether God, once having a thought – e.g., to create an universe – lacks any knowledge or understanding or wisdom with respect to that thought. Does God instantly know everything regarding the universe once He thinks of it?
Your point, I think, is that God is still as omniscient without knowing what Happens in the future because He necessarily knows all possibilities and is able to respond to those possibilities so that there is nothing that can happen in the future that is not known to God – thus, as events are decided, God omniscience becomes set where it was fluid before. But, does the satisfy the statements made in Scripture about God’s omniscience, understanding, and wisdom and then His perfection. All interesting issues that Charnock raises.
Then “This seems to make the whole of Scripture from man’s perspective, as if God could not tell us about Himself with the same words you use!”
Can the finite mind comprehend the infinite? If not, then Scripture should reflect a human perspective. For example, God calls out to Adam, “Where are you?” and God says of Sodom, “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.” Are we to think that God does not really know what is going on given that He would certainly know the past and present and therefore Adam’s location and Sodom’s behavior. Does God need to discover where Adam is hiding; can God be ignorant of Sodom’s sin? Of course, and as even you might argue, once Adam makes his decision as to where to hide, a future possibility becomes a certainty – and God knows it. God, if nothing else, may be a step behind but not truly ignorant. So, the Scriptural phrasing is done for purposes other than telling us something about God and more about His relationship to man. So, it seems that we both need to contend with such language – the issue between us being those Scriptures that speak of God’s knowledge in what be considered a similar fashion.
And when God describes Himself with the phrase, “I am,” what do you think He meant to convey to Moses (and thereby to us)?
Hi Roger. So God is only allowed one original thought in your view? Though I don’t think you mean that this thought came into existence in the mind of God out of nowhere! So are you saying that from His infinite wisdom of possibilities He can take one of those and turn it into an original thought? Once you say yes to that, there is no going back, my friend. Even Charnock doesn’t believe in a before and after of an original thought.
That original thought could be of a creation that includes some determinations and some openess for some more original thoughts for the future! For any original thought view, you have to deal with an omniscience that may not increase, but does indeed change.
Whatever God meant by “I am”, since He does not explain it, we can not be dogmatic about its meaning. We can not make its meaning undermine other clear Scriptures or the whole tenor of Scripture revelation about His nature. All of Scripture cries out that His nature experiences a reality of sequence, from everlasting to everlasting. I think the best contextual understanding of “I am” is found in the phrase “I am that I am”, or focusing on His truthfulness and faithfulness in behalf of Israel.
When God asks Adam – “Where are you?” His question does not make it logically necessary that He did not know where Adam was hiding. Parents ask their children all the time questions to which they know the answer, to provide an opportunity for a humble honest reply. And I do think God’s interaction with Sodom was not to learn information, but to experience what His omniscience only “knew” as information up to that point. His omniscience changed at that time. He now “knew” it also experientially, but His knowledge did not “increase”.
brianwagner writes, “So God is only allowed one original thought in your view?”
Oh, Brian!!!! But it’s a good point. Can an infinite being ever think of something that had not been thought before? I think Charnock takes the position that “infinite” does not allow this as a new or original thought would just be be “plus 1” and already included within the infinite. Who knows how God thinks – all we know is that God has perfect knowledge, infinite understanding, and perfect wisdom. I like to think that God can have an original thought but comprehending such seems beyond the ability of the finite mind.
Then, “So are you saying that from His infinite wisdom of possibilities He can take one of those and turn it into an original thought? ”
Oh, Brian!!!!! Possibilities cannot generate original thoughts unless those possibilities are restricted such that they do not include all possible possibilities, i.e., to start at a point less than “His infinite wisdom of possibilities.” Possibilities are derived from God saying, “What if I do X…” (speaking in human terms for the sake of discussion). Possibilities generate more possibilities but nothing original for God. We finite beings would consider many things “original” – being derived from a more creative finite mind – that God would not.
Hi Roger! Thank you for your compliment that I made a good point! You just made my day! 🙂 I think that is a first from you to me!
I hope that after I give you my review of Charnock, you will have many more compliments for me! It was also refreshing to see that you have some slight difference of opinion with Charnock. I hope you are ready to be shown a few important inconsistencies and contradictions and weak inferences that I have found in his writing on omniscience! 🙂
As for “possibilities”, I can see in such discussions as these and how Charnock and others use the term, that the immutable view of omniscience makes necessary that there are no true possibilities. When the Calvinist says something is “possible”, he means it was possible in respect to functionability, but not ever possible in respect to outcome.
But outcome is what is primarily in view when people normally speak of possibility. I can say that it is possible for a snake to eat grass, since it has a mouth that can function that way, but it will never willingly do so because it is not programmed to do so, so the outcome of a snake eating grass is impossible.
But man is programmed, and God is programmed, in their natures to have original thoughts. For God, the original thought is not an addition but a change in character of some of the infinite thoughts He already possesses in His infinite wisdom and knowledge.
A fully understood thought that God has moves from being thought of as a possibility, to being thought of as an outcome, by His power of free-will determination. His nature has such freedom, and that freedom is not a lack in His perfections, no matter what Charnock dogmatically says without evidence! 🙂
brianwagner writes, “the immutable view of omniscience makes necessary that there are no true possibilities.”
Post Genesis 1. Prior to Genesis 1, we might envision that God considers what He will do (as a Molinist might describe). Given that God is omniscient, once He makes a decision – which decision would reflect His perfect wisdom – there is no further basis for changing that decision as either His decision reflected perfect wisdom or it did not (lack of perfect wisdom leads to the conclusion that God is just the god of man’s imagination and not the God of Scripture).
So, there are no “true” possibilities from God’s perspective. We finite creatures make decisions that reflect possibilities before us even if not “true” possibilities to the infinite mind. Perfect wisdom necessarily requires immutable omniscience. If omniscience were mutable, the wisdom of God’s decisions would change with the changing of omniscience. Even you advocate immutable omniscience (kinda) as you allow God to know all future possibilities and how He will respond to decisions made about those possibilities. You allow God to know everything that could happen in the future, but not the path that is taken before it is taken. Technically, we would not say that God is omniscient under those circumstances but nothing unique will pop up that He was ignorant of.
As God is infinite, there would be no “time” so we could not say that God makes a decision one second before Genesis 1. Any decision made by God would have been made in eternity, and how that works, presumably, could only be understood by an infinite mind.
Also, you say, “But man is programmed, and God is programmed, in their natures to have original thoughts.”
Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”
Of course, Eve had an original thought – not to believe God. After that, Adam had the same thought as have people since. The first person to explain calculus might also be said to have had an original thought – suggesting that there is room for original thinking in finite minds. Some people have less finite minds than others. Only as the mind becomes infinite does “originality” as we perceive it disappear.
Then, “His nature has such freedom, and that freedom is not a lack in His perfections, no matter what Charnock dogmatically says without evidence! :-)”
Really? I hope you hit that in your paper.
Roger, “Perfect wisdom necessarily requires immutable omniscience.” What Scripture verses would you prove that from?
brianwagner writes, ““Perfect wisdom necessarily requires immutable omniscience.” What Scripture verses would you prove that from?”
“Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5)
Charnock: “…being the most simple Being, his understanding is his essence; and as from the infiniteness of his essence we conclude the infiniteness of his understanding, so from the unchangeableness of his essence, we may justly conclude the unchangeableness of his knowledge. Since, therefore, God is without all composition, and his understanding is not distinct from his essence, what he knows, he knows by his essence, and there can then be no more mutability in his knowledge than there can be in his essence; and if there were any in that, he could not be God, because he would have the property of a creature. If his understanding then be his essence, his knowledge is as necessary, as unchangeable as his essence. As his essence eminently contains all perfections in itself, so his understanding comprehends all things past, present, and future, …
Charnock, Stephen (2013-06-18). The Existence and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 6884-6891). . Kindle Edition.
“All his works were known to [God] from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15. 18).
Charnock: “All his works were not known to him, if the events of all those works were not also known to him; if they were not known to him, how should he make them? he could not do anything ignorantly. He made them then after he knew them, and did not know them after he made them. His knowledge of them made a change in them; their existence made no change in his knowledge. He knew them when they were to be created, in the same manner that he knew them after they were created; before they were brought into act, as well as after they were brought into act; before they were made, they were, and were not; they were in the knowledge of God, when they were not in their own nature; God did not receive his knowledge from their existence, but his knowledge and will acted upon them to bring them into being.
Charnock, Stephen (2013-06-18). The Existence and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 6906-6911). . Kindle Edition.
“His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:6).
Charnock: “There is no number of it; it can no more be calculated or drawn into an account by us, than infinite spaces, which have no bounds and limits, can be measured by us. We can no more arrive, even in heaven, to a comprehensive understanding of the manner of his knowledge, than of the infinite glory of his essence; we may as well comprehend one as the other. This we must conclude, that God being not a body, doth not see one thing with eyes, and another thing with mind, as we do; but being a spirit, he sees and knows only with mind, and his mind is himself, and is as unchangeable as himself; and therefore as he is not now another thing than what he was, so he knows not anything now in another manner than as he knew it from eternity; he sees all things in the glass of his own essence; as, therefore, the glass doth not vary, so neither doth his vision.”
Charnock, Stephen (2013-06-18). The Existence and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 6927-6933). . Kindle Edition.
“…[God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,…” Ephesians 1:11
Charnock: “…for whatsoever God willed to be now done, he willed from eternity to be done; but he willed also that it should not be done till such an instant of time, and that it should not exist before such a time. If God had willed the creation of the world only at that time when the world was produced, and not before, then, indeed, God had been changeable. But though God spake that word which he had not spoke before, whereby the world was brought into act; yet he did not will that will he willed not before. God did not create by a new counsel or new will, but by that which was from eternity (Eph. i. 9). All things are wrought according to that “purpose in himself,” and according to “the counsel of his will” (ver. 11); and as the holiness of the elect is the fruit of his eternal will “before the foundation of the world” (ver. 4), so, likewise, is the existence of things, and of those persons whom he did elect.
Charnock, Stephen (2013-06-18). The Existence and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 7204-7210). . Kindle Edition.
So you are saying, Roger, that immutable omniscience is clearly seen in phrases from Scripture verses like “His understanding is infinite”, “all His works were known from the beginning”, and “purpose of His will” (tied to “before the foundation of the world”). Or are you saying it is only clearly seen based on Charnock’s dogmatic statements about the simplicity of God, the immutability of God, and what perfection means?
Of course, none of these words are found in these specific verses that you listed, but they are key to defining dogmatically immutable omniscience.
And you might want to look more closely at Acts 15:18. The word “from” does not mean “before”. And since the word “known” (and adjective) has many nuances, and “works” don’t exist until they happen, the meaning of “known” could mean anything from “planned” to “understood”. But even if planned, it could be a plan with freedom for His choice between equally good options.
That verse also has some serious manuscript problems finding support for the phrase – “from eternity”.
brianwagner writes, “So you are saying that immutable omniscience is clearly seen in phrases from Scripture verses like “His understanding is infinite”, “all His works were known from the beginning”, and “purpose of His will” (tied to “before the foundation of the world”). Or are you saying it is only clearly seen based on Charnock’s dogmatic statements about the simplicity of God, the immutability of God, and what perfection means?”
Charnock is dogmatic that an infinite understanding cannot exist with anything less that perfect knowledge (omniscience – can omniscience become more omniscient?). I await your argument explaining that “infinite” understanding can exist in the face of imperfect knowledge.
Then, “And you might want to look more closely at Acts 15:18. The word “from” does not mean “before”. And since the word “known” (an adjective) has many nuances, and “works” don’t exist until they happen, the meaning of “known” could mean anything from “planned” to “understood”. But even if planned, it could be a plan with freedom for His choice between equally good options.”
I think you are grasping here. God is in view; His works are known to Him. It is God who makes His works known to someone for some purpose. When – The major translations disagree with you on the meaning of “from.” All give the sense of God making his works known before they manifest. Thus Isaiah 45:21, “Tell me! Present the evidence! Let them consult with one another! Who predicted this in the past? Who announced it beforehand? Was it not I, the Lord? I have no peer, there is no God but me, a God who vindicates and delivers; there is none but me.” (©NET) I look forward to your argument that the Greek work that is translated “from” has some other nuance than that found in the translations – and how you view the context here. Did you mean to say, ““works” don’t exist until they happen”? Are you not arguing, “God’s “works” cannot be known by Him until they happen”? Regardless, that a work does not exist before it happens says absolutely nothing constructive to Charnock’s argument.
If planned with perfect wisdom, undergirded by infinite understanding, can those plans change? Perhaps you meant to say, “it could be a plan with freedom for change based on human choice between equally good options.” God would have no basis to change that which He has planned else His perfect wisdom would be something less than perfect and His understanding something less than infinite.
Hi Roger! I think you still are not seeing the connection I am making on the meaning of “perfect” and Charnock’s view that divine omniscience must be immutable if it is to be perfect.
You said – “Charnock is dogmatic that an infinite understanding cannot exist with anything less that perfect knowledge (omniscience – can omniscience become more omniscient?). I await your argument explaining that ‘infinite’ understanding can exist in the face of imperfect knowledge.” You and I agree that God has infinite understanding, but you have accepted Charnock’s definition of “perfect” and “infinite” understanding as meaning immutable omniscience, I have not accepted that definition of “perfect” or “infinite” as necessary or Scriptural.
It really boils down to defining immutability biblically! God has free will, which means He can make changes and choices between different good things that each reflect His nature.
If He doesn’t have free will, than He is not a personal God, but an immutable entity like found in Hinduism or Taoism, or Platonism. And God was not really adding any experiences to His reality by the incarnation… He did not really “become” flesh.
brianwagner writes, ‘It really boils down to defining immutability biblically! God has free will, which means He can make changes and choices between different good things that each reflect His nature.”
Immutability is derived from the perfection of God whose nature is perfect in every respect. We would not think of God being imperfect in any manner. When God makes decisions, those decisions reflect His perfect wisdom. Thus, there would be no reason to “change” a decision because such change would require that the original decision was not perfect or that a less than perfect outcome is required – both would then argue against God having infinite understanding or perfect knowledge.
I think the issue is whether God, in exercising His free will to make decisions, ends up making decisions that are consistent with infinite understanding and perfect wisdom.
Roger, You are not being consistent, or at least not transparent. You said – “When God makes decisions, those decisions reflect His perfect wisdom.” Charnock does not believe that God makes decisions, even though there is an appearance that He does from man’s perspective in time.
If He truly does make decisions, then He can keep from making decisions and till “later”. He can even decide to change decisions from one outcome to another in response to man’s free-will decisions, as long as each change corresponds to His purpose of displaying His truth, love and righteousness, which are immutable.
What perfect wisdom! His ways are past finding out, but consistent with what He has revealed… not man’s inconsistent philosophy and attempts to define His perfections in contradiction with the normal reading of Scripture!
brianwagner writes, “Charnock does not believe that God makes decisions, even though there is an appearance that He does from man’s perspective in time.”
It would help tremendously if you could cite Charnock to show that Charnock actually believes that which you attribute to him. It’s not that I don’t want to believe that you have accurately understood Charnock, but I have this tremendous bias that says that those who oppose Calvinism (a theology I think Charnock favors) purposely create strawmen against which to argue. I see it often.
So, here is something from Charnock.
“…If [God] could will any unjust and irrational thing, his will would be repugnant to his understanding; there would be a disagreement in God, will against mind, and will against wisdom; he being the highest reason, the first truth, cannot do an unreasonable, false, defective action. It is not a defect in God that he cannot do evil, but a fulness and excellency of power; as it is not a weakness in the light, but the perfection of it, that it is unable to produce darkness; “God is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness” (James i. 17). Nothing pleases him, nothing is acted by him, but what is beseeming the infinite excellency of his own nature; the voluntary necessity whereby God cannot be unjust. renders him a God blessed forever; he would hate himself for the chief good, if, in any of his actions, he should disagree with his goodness. He cannot do any unworthy thing, not because he wants an infinite power, but because he is possessed of an infinite wisdom, and adorned with an infinite purity; and being infinitely pure, cannot have the least mixture of impurity.”
Charnock, Stephen (2013-06-18). The Existence and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 15851-15858). . Kindle Edition.
When Charnock speaks of God “willing” something, I understand him to mean that God has a will and makes decisions and that God wills things – makes decisions – consistent with His nature.
Thus, your comment seems entirely out of character with the Charnock that I am reading.
Then you claim, “If He truly does make decisions, then He can keep from making decisions and till “later”.”
I think you need an argument for this position. Can God really “keep from” making decisions? Certainly God can delay the implementation of decisions He makes. I just don’t see how God can delay some decisions until “later” whatever “later” might mean to God.
Then, somewhat incredibly to me, “What perfect wisdom!’
Do you mean to suggest that God does not exhibit perfect wisdom?? Are we on two different wavelengths here?
Hi Roger, Your quote from Charnock does not disprove my evaluation, it just says that God never wills anything “unjust and irrational.”
My assessment is not “out of character” at all with the comment you just chose from Charnock. I am not sure how you can see that it is. All I said is that God, in Charnock’s view, doesn’t make decisions. If one believes God’s will is one and immutable, like Charnock, than there is no sequence of decisions being made, thus no deciding at all.
Here is a Charnock quote that may help – “There can be no instant fixed from eternity, wherein it can be said, God did not will the creation of the world; for had the will of God for the shortest moment been undetermined to the creation of the world, and afterwards resolved upon it, there had been a moral change in God from not willing to willing; but this there was not….” (p. 409).
Also – “Again, as God knows all things by one simple vision of his understanding, so he wills all things by one act of volition; ….Whatsoever is eternal is immutable; as his knowledge is eternal, and therefore immutable, so is his will; he wills or nills nothing to be in time, but what he willed and nilled from eternity;” (p. 394).
My point was that for God to go from undecided about something to decided would be a change of will in Charnock’s view, therefore no decision was ever actually made but all was eternally “decided” or set to happen already.
If God cannot make decisions between multiple good options, then does He really have a free-will? I believe He can, has, and still does make decisions freely in agreement with His immutable love, righteousness and truth. Those decisions are changes within His omniscience from things possible to things eventual, but they are not additions to His nature, because His understanding is infinite, always.
My comment – “What perfect wisdom!” was an exclamation, praising the reality of it, not questioning its existence! I think we are sometimes on different wavelengths, my friend. 🙂
Also Roger… have you read the ESV, NIV, NASB, NRSV, NLT and HCSB for Acts 15:18! Read 17 in conjunction with it and you will see that they do not support in anyway the reading Charnock leans on or the inferences he tries to get from it. The phrase “all His works” is not even in their translations! And many translate “from eternity” as “from long ago”! That definitely does not prove “before creation” from that phrase!
brianwagner writes, “…the ESV, NIV, NASB, NRSV, NLT and HCSB for Acts 15:18! Read 17 in conjunction with it and you will see that they do not support in anyway the reading Charnock leans on or the inferences he tries to get from it. The phrase “all His works” is not even in their translations! ”
The translations will refer to “all these things,” referring to something God does – you seem to be objecting to Charnock (following the KJV translators) identifying something God does as a work of God. So, what is antecedent to “these” that describes the “things” done? It is this, ” I will return , and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down ; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up,” the purpose for doing these things is so “that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called.” In context, this is to explain why the gentiles are being saved. The quotation is from Amos 9, “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the LORD, who will do these things.” If this is a reference to Christ and His death on the cross, then could we not extend any other “things” to be done by God and foretold – all the prophecies that relate to Christ. But wasn’t that God’s plan from Genesis 3? Thus, God chose Abraham, gave him a son, Isaac, raised Joseph to authority in Egypt, impregnated Mary, etc. You want to deny that “things” could be taken to be “works” of God but What’s the difference between “these things” and “works” of God. Your problem seems to be with the word, “all,” as if Charnock is not justified to extrapolate the speciifc actions noted by James to include all those things done by God throughout the OT/NT leading to the salvation of the gentiles.
Then “And many translate “from eternity” as “from long ago”! That definitely does not prove “before creation” from that phrase!”
Presumably, you would allow “log ago” to refer back to the time of Amos. The issue is whether you would allow God to have plotted out a path to the fulfillment of Amos beginning with Genesis 3. Paul says of the gentiles in Ephesians 1, “God chose us in him before the creation of the world.” Could we not say that God reveals in Amos 9 part of His plan to save the gentiles, a plan devised before the creation of the world?
Roger, Do you really have that hard of a time understanding what I am saying, after all this time as friends? 🙂
You said – “The translations will refer to “all these things,” referring to something God does – you [me] seem to be objecting to Charnock (following the KJV translators) identifying something God does as a work of God.” First, none of the translations I listed have the word “all”. Second, never would I have implied that God is not the one who planned the work of saving the Gentiles. Where did you get such ideas from what I wrote?
I don’t even mind guessing that God might have planned before creation to choose Israel first and then to choose the Church from both Jews and Gentiles to be His people. The problem is that all of this guess work, extrapolation (as you also called it) is not proven clearly from the text. one could “extrapolate” just as easily that it could have all been planned after creation to fit in the meaning of this text, thus “long ago”.
The more important thing is that Chanock tries to prove immutable omniscience from verses like this… really? No wonder some people say anyone can prove anything from the Bible!
brianwagner writes, “First, none of the translations I listed have the word “all”. Second, never would I have implied that God is not the one who planned the work of saving the Gentiles. Where did you get such ideas from what I wrote?”
On your second complaint, it is not whether God planned to save the Gentiles that is in contention, but whether the series of actions God had planned to bring the Gentiles to salvation can be called God’s works? In Acts 15, we read of the actions God planned to take to save the Gentiles being referred to as “these things” in several translations. Charnock takes these “things,” to be “works” of God Is it illogical to see “these things” of God being “works” of God?
Regarding “all,” it is intuitive to the reader that “these things” refer back to “all” the things noted in the cited passage. If anything, the word, “all”,” in the translation should be placed in italics following the KJV practice when inserting words. However, the addition of “all” in the KJV is consistent with the verse and does not distort it. The real issue is whether “these things” can be read as “all these things” and then, the extent to which “all” can encompass those things not listed but necessary to gain those listed.
Then, ‘The more important thing is that Chanock tries to prove immutable omniscience from verses like this… really? No wonder some people say anyone can prove anything from the Bible!”
However, Charnock first establishes a foundation for describing God in His essence consisting of descriptors – God is eternal, all wise, of infinite understanding – and it is from these attributes that Charnock argues that God must be immutable – with support from the Scriptures. If God is immutable and omniscience then His omniscience is immutable. If it is true that Charnock has manipulated the Scriptures to get to his conclusion, then one need only identify those attributes of God that allow for Him to be mutable in the face of the immutability required by the remaining attributes. May we presume that you will be doing this as you take on Charnock?
Do you really think I am being that obstinate Roger? If God planned anything, then certainly they are His works. But the issue is trying to say from Acts 15:18 that everything was planned, not just those things mentioned in that context. That is an extrapolation, and you did not address that abuse of the text by Charnock.
Also, every definition must be tested by the limits of Scripture. God is omnipotent, but He cannot lie. Does He have the power to lie, but just chooses not too? I don’t think you would buy into that.
God is omniscient, but there are types of knowledge where He must say – “I never knew” as in “I never knew you”. That type of knowledge must help define the meaning of omniscient since “all knowing” could not include that type of knowledge.
God is immutable, but He became man, or at least one member of the Godhead became man, whatever that means for the unity and so-called indivisible nature of God. And one member of the Godhead even experienced being forsaken by the other, as a new experience. If that is not a change, I don’t know what it. So immutability has to be determined contextually, not philosophically.
So God’s understanding is infinite, and perhaps I could say immutable if you also allow His will to be free to choose between the infinite true possibilities that are within His understanding. Any such choice doesn’t add to His understanding, for He understands perfectly all the ramifications of each possibility, but His sequential choices do change the knowledge of each detail from being a possibility to being an eventuality. I believe God’s omniscience is consistently described this way in Scripture, because the future is clearly described there as partly determined and partly conditional.
I choose not to allow for myself and ministry the meaning of Scripture to bow beneath the authority of man’s philosophical definitions!
brianwagner writes, “the issue is trying to say from Acts 15:18 that everything was planned, not just those things mentioned in that context. That is an extrapolation, and you did not address that abuse of the text by Charnock.”
I thought I did, but let’s do it again. Acts 15 refers to certain works of God – “I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.” We first determine what “…David’s fallen tent…” means, and we might reasonably identify this with the salvation of the Gentiles. Regardless, we both seem to agree that God planned something and that something was to occur in the future. The issue you raise is whether we can extrapolate to include all those actions preceding the building of David’s tent. For example, would building David’s tent incorporate the death of Christ or the impregnation of Mary and if not, could we extrapolate to include it? What Charnock does is assume that all God’s works support His purpose and all God’ purposes can be expressed in one ultimate purpose – thus, whatever is true of one of God’s works is true of all God’s works as all God’s works were jointly planned to bring about His purpose.
If we identify “…David’s fallen tent…” with the Gentiles and their salvation, do we identify, as part of those planes, that which we read in Ephesians, “God chose us Gentiles in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. God planned for us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” Does this help describe what building David’s fallen tent means.
If we do these things – connect building David’s tent with other Scriptures and include supporting events – are we really abusing the text or exercising proper exegesis? I think Charnock’s exegesis is proper; you don’t. We will see if you avoid the abuse you claim for Charnock in any exegesis of the Scriptures you pursue.
You really don’t see, Roger, do you, that extrapolation from one or a few connected planned events by God does not make it logically necessary that all prior or intervening events must also all have been ordained in the plan?
Extrapolation usually proves too much from evidence provided, because it relies on unproven tautologies or assumptions. Charnock has done that clearly with Acts 15:18. If you choose not to see that, I am at loss to know how to discuss this passage further with you, my friend. Such extrapolation is NOT proper exegesis, especially when trying to prove some dogma that is a major plank in one’s theology.
A virgin was planned to conceive, but God could have chosen freely some other virgin besides Mary. Every event in human history did not have to be settled in His omniscient mind before the first moment of creation!
Brian Wagner in line with his false and aberrant open theism theology wrote:
“A virgin was planned to conceive, but God could have chosen freely some other virgin besides Mary.”
This is not true at all. God could not have chosen freely some other virgin besides Mary.
This statement completely ignores this thing called biblical prophecy (i.e. prophecies told things that would happen before hand and were very specific including the line of descent the messiah would come through, etc.). God could not just choose any virgin, it had to be Mary and it had to be at that time and in that situation for multiple prophecies to be fulfilled.
This is a perfect example of how this false open theism theology makes a mockery of scripture and twists it and endangers inerrancy and biblical prophecy.
I would suggest again that Brian and rhutchin their discussion of Charnock and omniscience off line, we really don’t want to see any more of this false open theism being openly presented in this thread. If Brian wants to present his false open theism and discuss Charnock with rhutchin take it off line.
It is really sad when we have someone (a professor of New Testament no less) coming along and disregarding biblical prophecy and claiming that God could use any virgin to bring His Messiah into the world. What a mockery of prophecy and scripture.
Hi Robert, I’m sorry I did not anticipate your monitoring and reaction and continued lack of understanding of my view. I should have been more verbose. You should know that I have confirmed on this site, and to you often, that every prophecy given by God must be filled.
It is true that God could have chosen some other virgin… but not just any ole virgin. 🙂 The other prophecies concerning the lineage of the Messiah would also have to be fulfilled as part of the plan.
You overreacted, Robert, when you construed my comment as meaning “any” virgin. I never used that word!
“Hi Robert, I’m sorry I did not anticipate your monitoring and reaction and continued lack of understanding of my view.”
As long as you keep publicly posting your FALSE and aberrant open theism here, I will continue challenging this false view of yours. And it is not my “continued lack of understanding of my view” that is the problem. I understand your view just fine, as do many, many, many others who reject your sub-biblical view of omniscience and your ****finite and limited conception of god**** (cf. people who have published books against your view e.g. John Frame, Bruce Ware, it is interesting that there are no Calvinist open theists, they are mistaken in some of their soteriological views and yet none of them is foolish enough to espouse open theism).
Unfortunately, we live in a time when virtually anything is tolerated and presented as true by someone, that does not mean that we have to accept this false view as either acceptable or respectable.
“It is true that God could have chosen some other virgin… but not just any ole virgin. 🙂 The other prophecies concerning the lineage of the Messiah would also have to be fulfilled as part of the plan.”
No, it is not true that God could have chosen someone else besides Mary. Mary was chosen by God for her role, it was a form of election that is biblical (and you don’t have to be Roman Catholic to believe that). Your comment ignores biblical prophecy concerning Mary, the Messiah, his blood line, etc. etc. which is why it makes a mockery of biblical prophecy.
I wonder what the reaction would be at the Christian school (where you teach and get paid for teaching) if others there heard you promoting the idea that it just happened to be Mary, that **someone** else would have worked out just as well? I wonder what the Christian parents of the college students there, would think if they heard your views? Would they still want their kids there? Would they still want you to be a teacher there?
“You overreacted, Robert, when you construed my comment as meaning “any” virgin. I never used that word!”
And I never said “any” either. You are playing with words again as you often do, and you remind me of the infamous incident involving Bill Clinton and his comment about “what do you mean by the word “is”?” (In your case you are making an irrelevant distinction between “any” and “some”, missing the point that it had to be Mary or the prophecies would not have been true).
Don’t bother responding I really don’t want to hear more of your semantic game playing to try to rationalize and justify your false ideas. If you want to keep arguing for your view with rhutchin again I suggest you take it off line.
Hi Robert! May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace! And may you have a joy filled and loved filled Christmas time!
You did say – “God could not just choose ANY [emphasis mine] virgin..”
And you did say – “…claiming that God could use ANY [emphasis mine] virgin…”
There was a choice made of Mary at some point, and the prediction of the Messiah’s birth through her was given to her after that point. But that choice did not need to be made before creation. It could just as easily have been made a day before Gabriel was sent to her house.
And she was probably one of a number of virgins in David’s lineage to choose from. I am sorry that you do not have this biblical view of God’s free-will! I know your philosophically based view of God’s immutable omniscience is why.
And as long as I know, Robert, that you are reading Roger and my posts and that Leighton is ok with our discussion, I will keep going. It encourages me that you are getting a chance to read our discussion! I know how God uses truth to set people free! 🙂
brianwagner writes, “every definition must be tested by the limits of Scripture. God is omnipotent, but He cannot lie. Does He have the power to lie, but just chooses not too? I don’t think you would buy into that.”
I think we need to distinguish between ability and desire. As a consequence of His holiness, it is impossible that God should lie. However, there is no reason to think that God does not have the ability to lie. God is omnipotent, but because God is also holy, God cannot lie. So, I do buy into the idea that God actually chooses not to lie.
Then, “God is omniscient, but there are types of knowledge where He must say – “I never knew” as in “I never knew you”. That type of knowledge must help define the meaning of omniscient since “all knowing” could not include that type of knowledge.”
When Jesus said, “I never knew you,” in Matthew 7, we understand that Christ “knew” these people in terms of physical facts about them. He means here that He had no relationship with them – they were never His people. But, why would we not include this in His omniscience? Would it not be reasonable to begin defining omniscience by saying that God knows Himself (as Charnock does)?
Then, “God is immutable, but He became man, or at least one member of the Godhead became man,…”
Did Christ become a man or just take on the appearance of a man? I don’t think we should assume that God somehow had to change from what He is to enter into the body of a man. I don’t see a reason to conclude that this affects the immutability of God. I don’t recall reading anything where someone has developed this idea – perhaps you can cite sources that have (hopefully available on the internet).
Finally, “..He understands perfectly all the ramifications of each possibility, but His sequential choices do change the knowledge of each detail from being a possibility to being an eventuality. I believe God’s omniscience is consistently described this way in Scripture, because the future is clearly described there as partly determined and partly conditional.”
Earlier you seem to agree that God has the final say in all that happens – God can intervene to change the natural course of events or do nothing and allow natural events to play out. If God knows all possibilities, then could He not know how He responds to those possibilities? Should we conclude that some things are determined and some conditional or would it be proper to say that some things have been implemented and some things await implementation?
Hi Roger, You asked – “But, why would we not include this in His omniscience? Would it not be reasonable to begin defining omniscience by saying that God knows Himself (as Charnock does)?” I choose to define God’s omniscience by what Scripture says in all its verses that deal with His knowing of anything. You prefer Charnock to dogmatically fill in where Scripture is silent and are unwilling to see when his dogmatism forces the normal understanding of Scripture to be twisted away from its context.
Then you asked – “Did Christ become a man or just take on the appearance of a man?” And you added – “I don’t think we should assume that God somehow had to change from what He is to enter into the body of a man.” But the Scripture says clearly “…the Word was God…. and the Word became flesh.” It also says He “became in the likeness of men.” It does not say it was just an appearance, like Docetism taught, but a real change, which the word γινομαι must mean.
Then you asked, perhaps just rhetorically, but I’ll answer anyway 😉 –
“If God knows all possibilities, then could He not know how He responds to those possibilities? Should we conclude that some things are determined and some conditional or would it be proper to say that some things have been implemented and some things await implementation?” Yes, He had the power to predetermine all things before creation, even all His decisions, no matter what free-will choices man might make (and could have even determined which free-will decisions man should make). But such a view is incompatible with what the Scripture says He has done or is doing. He is still making freewill decisions between good things interrelated to our freewill decisions between somethings good and some things bad!
brianwagner writes, ” I choose to define God’s omniscience by what Scripture says in all its verses that deal with His knowing of anything.”
If you actually do this, I think you will be the first person to have done so. Any chance you have written a paper on this demonstrating that it could do done. In responding to Charnock, you should pretty much do this – for the first time if not again. Excitement is building.
Then, “He had the power to predetermine all things before creation,…”
The issue is not what God had the power to do. It is not by His power that God predetermined all things – it is by His power that God brings all things to be as He determines (a point you have agreed to previously is true even denying God knowledge of all future actualities). By His power, God carries out His will.
Finally, “…the Word became flesh…”
What does that mean? Are we to think that God was reduced to the size of a man? Obviously not. As a man, Jesus prayed to God so despite whatever has occurred with Jesus, God is still the same God He always was. What could it mean to say that God changed when obviously God really did not change. Are we to make Jesus something less than God when He said that He was God? There is more here than we can productively sort out. Maybe later when we are both older and hopefully much, much wiser.
We don’t need to be older and wiser, Roger, we just need to choose the Scripture as our final source and authority for definition of God’s nature, instead of placing our trust in a verbose Puritan writer who relied heavily upon personal reasoning borrowed from philosophy and who attempted to tie that reasoning to verses taken out of context or used to say more than they do!
The fact that you want me to find someone else who teaches that definitions of God’s nature must be based primarily on Scripture alone, shows that you prefer a human mediator to be your authority for what to believe.
If I produce a scholar saying the same thing, I doubt you would think differently. Only meditation on the Word will bring the change needed in your thinking, I believe, and a willingness to stop trusting in man for authoritative definitions.
I think the world is waiting for your arguments on God not being omniscience. Well, I am. It will be interesting to have someone do it.
Brian, I really enjoy your posts. I always skip everybody else’s to read yours. Thanks. 🙂
Dizerner, I wanted to tell you I watched the link you posted on Leighton’s post regarding child abuse, the link being an audio sermon about what the early church believed about eternal security. Very interesting, thanks!
Yea I found that guy over a year ago, basically compiles some quotes on church fathers, very helpful.
Good morning David! I hope you don’t mind my comment here. I am very passionate about Christian History, especially since my time serving Christ in Ireland. I love teaching about it at our school, and I look for opportunities to comment on it, since appeal to the “Fathers” as authoritative has become more accepted in Evangelical circles in the last fifty years.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Barnabas, James, Peter, and Jude are the only founding fathers of Christianity whose writings are with inerrant authority. And the ones labeled, Pre-Nicean Fathers, not only have theological errors in their writings, but they only represent what fourth and fifth century Roman Catholic authorities wanted preserved from the first 300 years. They chose these “Fathers” because they represented the magisterial, sacramental Christianity that Constantine wanted organized for his empire religion.
Three things clearly confirm that the denomination of Christianity that started at Nicea, which we call Roman Catholicism, was not the main stream of the Christian “Church” that Christ was building. One is seen by reading the canons established at Nicea for this denomination, showing clearly the establishment of an unbiblical hierarchy (rule of priests). A second is seen by reading Augustine’s interpretation of “forgiveness of sins” from the Nicean Creed – clearly tying salvation to baptism and to proxy faith (not personal).
The third is reading all the “anathemas” adopted for things defined by the first four ecumenical councils of RC. An anathema means – unless you believe this you are damned. This clearly shows the gospel was corrupted away from its simple definition in Scripture. In fact it is amazing how little Scripture is appealed to in the definitions and canons of the first four ecumenical councils of RC. By AD 500, Gregory I, pope of RC, said – I confess that I receive and revere, just as the four books of the Gospel, so also the four Councils . . . . These [Councils] with full devotion I embrace, and adhere to with most entire approval…. Whosoever, therefore, thinks otherwise, let him be anathema..” (Book I, Letter 25 to John, Bishop of Alexandria)
The RC choice of Pre-Nicean “fathers” would not be my choice. I even wonder how many of those Pre-Nicean writers, that were chosen, were even saved. But if saved, they were not holding to sound doctrine, if what they wrote clearly disagreed with NT teaching. From what I have read from that first 300 years, I believe if we lived back then, we would find the same variety of Christian theology that we find today. I do feel a biblical kinship with Clement of Rome, Polycarp, maybe Irenaeus, and the later Tertullian. There may be others, but I am constantly surprised to discover how much evidence there is for these early witnesses as having had their writings emended by RC to fit RC theology!
Eh, Brian i have no doubt RC ideas didn’t come out of a vacuum but that doesn’t seem enough justification to me to think they actively suppressed or altered original CF documents, plus if they did so why not expect 100% conformance.
I do wish though you could convince this lady that they are not on level with Scripture: https://www.youtube.com/user/preetshahi21 . They have been having Google hangouts (also big followers of Leighton). Now she is using them to try to deny original sin (to be honest I’m not sure where you stand on that).
David! I think you would be surprised at the textual provenance for Pre-Nicean writers who are held up as authorities for Christian dogma! A study of the 600 year influence that the forgery, the Donation of Constantine, had, along with the promotion of hagiography for saints, will make believing that there are RC emendations in early works very reasonable. Additions to Josephus’ quotes about Jesus would also be a good example.
Not sure I want to take on another challenge trying to convince another person who does not hold that the Scriptures present in a clear readable fashion all that is necessary to believe for salvation and spiritual growth! 🙂
As for original sin, I believe we receive the sin nature, but not the guilt, from Adam (Rom. 7:9). That nature pushes us towards sin. God then allows us to be confirmed in our own disobedience (Rom 11:32), and in that state of personal guilt we will not begin to seek Him until He first convicts and enlightens us.
But when He does, only during those times, our natures are able to freely seek, accept, or reject His gracious drawing. If we reject, we return to a self-hardened state from where we will not seek again unless God takes the initiative again. That’s what I believe about the original sin of Adam and its effect on our nature!
Thanks Brian, although I’ve read some pre-Nicean stuff I haven’t looked too in depth at any of those theories. If you have a site/book to get started on some ideas, I’d check it out.
I always tell my students to read primary source material for themselves. A good place to start is the definitions and canons of the first four councils. http://www.piar.hu/councils/~index.htm
For the apostolic and Pre-Nicene writers, reading introductory material, especially anything that would speak to manuscript evidence and integrity of the text or possible emendation.
I meant specifically your conspiracy theories about RC influence, not generic introductions.
also that link is 404 for me
Sorry David… it was from an old handout. I should have rechecked it first! Here is another – http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/index.htm
When you read this info… notice there is little or no direct appeal to Pre-Nicene writers and very little Scripture directly appealed to for authority for their decisions. They are their own authority for the most part, under the Emperor. And the gospel is not clearly defined!
As for my “conspiracy theories” 🙂 about RC influence in forging, altering, and controlling Pre-Nicene orthodoxy, here is an article to start with – http://www.bereanpublishers.com/forged-documents-and-papal-power/
Thanks that’s what I was looking for. As for the councils… well I completely agree. Even the original Nicene creed didn’t even mention “sin.”
Good morning David. I should have mentioned also Ignatius (RC “apostolic father”) as a prime example. There are accepted to be “seven epistles of Ignatius (the longer forms of these Epistles, and those beyond the seven, are widely considered later emendations and forgeries.” One wonders how many emendations may have entered those seven also.
A good overview of the authenticity of Ignatius’ letters and their influence on establishing RC theology can be found in the “Letters” section on the Wiki page for Ignatius. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Antioch#Letters
Yes. Good reminder by Brian below, however, to rely on biblical church Fathers alone for theological authority.
NOVEMBER 23, 2015 AT 4:27 PM
No, you freely choose to remain uninformed. Question: If God knows what you are going to do can you do otherwise?
NOVEMBER 23, 2015 AT 6:10 PM
I don’t believe scholars from my perspective are attempting to conclude that we are able to do other than what God infinitely knows. That is a blatant mischaracterization of our perspective. That may be the conclusion of compatibilism and Open Theism, but it’s never been a conclusion we have drawn. We appeal to the mystery of the infinite before drawing that type of linear finite conclusion.
NOVEMBER 23, 2015 AT 7:11 PM
You have asked the same question twice:
“Question: If God knows what you are going to do can you do otherwise?”
The answer to your question is that we can never do otherwise than we in fact end up doing.
But how is that a problem?
NOVEMBER 23, 2015 AT 8:18 PM
The point I wanted to make was that if we accept the paradox of divine foreknowledge and free will as compatible than both Calvinists and non-Calvinists are closer in agreement than they realize.
Great Conversation. But in spite of what Robert said I think Mike makes a great point that I would not mind each of them to elaborate on. Question:If God knows what you are going to do can you do otherwise?
Yes there may be two or more choices for you to choose from at any given moment, But form all eternity God has always known the exact choice you would make. So if God knows what you are going to do how can you do otherwise? Listen, if you guys have followed any of my discussions with BRD you know I am open. Like today. When I went to the mail box I do not think I was determined. When it comes to one’s salvation I am not yet sold on that aspect and still could go back the other way if I hear a cogent argument as to determinism. I did read all that Robert wrote and his points are all well taken.
I am just asking questions to get answers.