For those looking for a thorough philosophical rebuttal to Compatibilism (or “theistic determinism” — the view most held to by scholarly Calvinists), here is a great resource:
Philosophical Reflections on Free Will
Copyright 2000, Robert L. Hamilton. All rights reserved. http://www.geocities.com/amywes_tw/devotionals.html
(11/9/2000; revised 7/13/2002)
72 thoughts on “Philosophical Reflections on Free Will”
Rebuttal to #1 – “Compatibilism fails to establish human culpability”
“But once we recognize (as we must within the larger deterministic framework encompassing compatibilism) that those very desires of the person are equally part of the environment that God causally determines, then the line between environment and agent becomes blurred if not completely lost.”
This is called “radical reduction” and is a technique you can pull with almost anything. It undermines descriminatory meaning by jettisoning important interests. Tell-tale signs of radical reduction are use of terms like “ultimately,” “in the end,” and (of course) “lines becoming blurred/lost.”
Compatibilism doesn’t fold into hard determinism because there is a DEGREE of meaningful independence from God’s classical interests through (1) deterministic chaos + (2) an interest of God in nonintervention (probably an ancillary interest that serves the ongoing development of mankind by means of stewardship) within God’s manifold interest set. IF God has an interest like that, THEN such an interest sustains meaningful discrimination of this kind. Collapsing that discrimination would require jettisoning that interest.
Google “stanrock sun rises” for an explanation of how radical reduction and interest-driven formation work.
Feinberg’s proposals are all bad.
The most appropriate sense of could/can for compatibilism is:
“It is, in a given modal scope, imaginable to do any one of several mutually exclusive things; there’s no detectable (again, given the modal scope) reason why one would be selected over the other.”
For example, God in his omniscience knows everything that shall occur. But he can use false antecedents (e.g., “If you do this…” when he knows you won’t) to proclaim true conditionals as tools to influence, threaten, incentivize, etc. He communicates through our non-omniscient modal scopes all the time. Open Theists then notoriously reply that God’s omniscience must be something different than classical, as if the Parent SURELY must dwell in the same pedagogical context as the child.
Rebuttal to #2 – “Compatibilism fails to avoid divine culpability”
Dynamic responsibility needs to be adopted over folk notions of buck-stops-here responsibility. Only dynamic responsibility handles the mitigation, transfer, sharing, hierarchy, and stewardship vital to real-world responsibility.
Google “stanrock responsibility” for a proof from Scripture. You’ll aslo find a flow chart, near the end, that shows a helicopter view of the insanity of this debate, and why you see the same nonsense appear again and again in a spin cycle.
Rebuttal to #3 – “Compatibilism fails to provide a sufficient basis for human knowledge and rhetoric”
The “no ground of knowledge” thing is a complete non sequitur but a weirdly popular chestnut among some Christian philosophers. It’s NOT a corollary.
The rest is more radical reduction. It’s baffling to me how addictive this is for so many brilliant thinkers. When “determinism” reviews efficacy, synthetic thinking, chaotic spontaneity, desire, tries, fails, artwork, music, feelings, etc., it does not say, “No; forbidden.” All of those things remain intact. Only specially-stipulative VERSIONS of those terms — VERSIONS loaded with libertarian insistence — are incompatibilistic (needless to say). Of course, attention is not called to this, because they’d rather the terms be thought-of as non-stipulative in order to Trojan-Horse the victory.
Stan, I do appreciate your offerings of technical explanations with the occasional whimsical comment thrown in! 🙂 They stretch my thinking and vocabulary as I try to understand your loyalty to determinism.
One comment – You said – “Open Theists then notoriously reply that God’s omniscience must be something different than classical, as if the Parent SURELY must dwell in the same pedagogical context as the child.” I am not sure why it should be considered “notorious” to believe that the Scriptures present an omniscience for God where He freely stooped to experience the same pedagogical context as His creation, and which would require not “knowing” as certain, but fully “knowing” as possible, all the free choices He and those in His image can make. Any thoughts? Must the Parent SURELY NOT ever dwell in such in the same context as the child?
And what evidence do you have, or use, to support the idea that God’s omniscience is not inclusive of free-will and sequential thinking but is immutably static? Is classical omniscience just a tautology or a presupposition for you? Thanks.
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you; I was at a conference and then focusing on my family. You deserved a more rapid reply.
You wrote, “Any thoughts? Must the Parent SURELY NOT ever dwell in such in the same context as the child?”
If I could go back and undo that, I would. I was reckless in my qualifiers and my sarcasm. You’re of course correct that there are proposals where God and man share a pedagogical context, and ones where they don’t, and that neither the Bible’s manifold voices nor my sarcastic flippance shoves us wholly in one direction or the other. It was a cheap shot and stupid and I retract it and ask your forgiveness.
You wrote, “And what evidence do you have, or use, to support the idea that God’s omniscience is not inclusive of free-will and sequential thinking but is immutably static? Is classical omniscience just a tautology or a presupposition for you? Thanks.”
I spent a few minutes trying to come up with a better answer than I’ve given in the past. Let me try this.
We talk about possibility in terms of what is known and unknown. For example, we can talk about the possibility of historical closed facts (like whether my dinner date has stood me up, vs. prevented beyond her power, and I am NOT idiomatically speaking about later revelations [perhaps I am on my deathbed and reminiscing]). When we talk about that possibility, we start to think in terms of Bayesian likelihood. What DO I know, and how can I apply what I DO know to the circumstances of what I currently DON’T know? As we explore these things more and more, we learn that it’s an epistemological exercise, where the past and future “place” of the fact is irrelevant.
That is, possibility is not ontological; it’s epistemological. And this is why it makes so much intuitive sense for a God lacking certainty about a single future to allow for more possibilities. It isn’t as if these possibilities ontologically emerge. It’s that they epistemologically emerge. Gaps of uncertainty transform the necessary into the possible.
This is also why a chocolate-vs.-vanilla choice seems so much “freer” than a choice to either strike my wife or not. It’s a question of epistemology. No person — not even me! — can really ascertain the tiny rationale fluctuations and mental perturbations that lead me to choose one flavor or the other. It seems so arbitrary, trivial, spontaneous, free. So we call it free, because we lack that knowledge. Meanwhile, it’s very obvious to me and others why I’ll never strike my wife. It’s quite not-possible. And we got to “not-possible” because of what we know. (You, not knowing me, may not feel the “not-possible” as intensely as I do. This is yet another demonstration of possibility being epistemological.)
Some choices involve such manifold interests and confusing systems/data that the right choice eludes us. In the end, it almost feels like chocolate-vs.-vanilla, even though it may be a very serious choice. See Vasili Arkhipov.
But here’s the thing. When I try my darndest to vividly imagine a God who can project out to distant futures, and see all the possibilities, he has to know the chocolates-vs.-vanillas. I mean, I didn’t even know why I chose vanilla, really. But I’m pretty sure God was discerning enough to predict the loose rationales and neural chemistry to see exactly which route I’d go. I really suspect God knew Vasili Arkhipov would elect to prevent nuclear armageddon, and that it probably didn’t require an oppressive miracle to change an otherwise doom-bent proclivity.
In order to make God ignorant of the chocolate-vs.-vanilla result, and of the decision results that make or break global catastrophes, he’d have to be severely limited. The more limited, the better for possibility, because knowing stuff closes possibilities, because possibility is epistemological.
If God knows the incalculable bloom of all possibilities, then the “possibility-maker” moments are only where he doesn’t know something. The moments of could-be-this-could-be-that. And if he’s ignorant of those moments about such a large and sweeping category of things, entailing human decisions like chocolate-vanilla or Vasili Arkhipov, then it follows from deterministic chaos (still a thing under Open Theism) that his actual predictive prowess is horribly abysmal. The Open Theist elects to eat this cake, but then God becomes a terrifyingly pathetic forecaster as a corollary (days-away stuff is completely out of the question, let alone years-away). So it is then asserted that eating and keeping the cake can both happen, but that’s not true (most likely an assertion from lack of imagination, especially consideration of chaos).
Good morning Stan. Apology not necessary! I hope you had a good conference and family time! I was in a full schedule myself these last few days, grading papers and exams as the semester came to a close. And no apology is needed for your lightly negative comments “notoriously” and “SURELY”. If that’s the worse you can do, your time in purgatory will be only seconds! 🙂
I am guessing that your statement – “That is, possibility is not ontological; it’s epistemological” is your answer “yes” to my question whether you think “that God’s omniscience is not inclusive of free-will and sequential thinking but is immutably static.” Aren’t you presenting a false dichotomy? God’s omniscience must be defined both ontologically and, of course, epistemologically. I cannot imagine an understanding of omniscience were both are not inextricably linked. I still think the Scriptures present God’s omniscience as including free-will and sequential thinking, which must also include possibilities.
I don’t think it’s possible, with an emotional certainty, that you would hit your wife out of anger! But I can easily postulate a situation in my mind were you would still be free to hit her out of love to stop her from doing some evil that she might be caught up in. The issue is not defining possibility and certainty in humanistic terms. The issue is – does God’s omniscience including possibility.
I agreed with you when you said that you – “vividly imagine a God who can project out to distant futures, and see all the possibilities, he has to know the chocolates-vs.-vanillas.” I know you later added the word “results” as being a necessary part to that knowledge. I keep the word “possibilities” as a necessary part of that knowledge. Doesn’t your view of knowledge require His seeing “all the possibilities” that exist for Himself as being chosen, settled, or perhaps ontologically set eternally, which would “cause” or at least limit to an almost settled state all His seen, seemingly free-will and random, possibilities? In fact, is He just seeing all His only theoretical possibilities as already eternally “chosen” by Him, i.e. an immutable omniscience (Calvinism), or was He sequentially thinking through the “distant futures” and making all His choices so that creation would be immutably determined before He started creating (Molinism)?
I am still stuck seeing the Scriptures presenting God’s ontological/epistemological omniscience as being sequential and free, and the future as ontologically non-existent, but only epistemological. I see that He is still making choices between possibilities that exist, which causes changes within His infinite understanding of them, but does not open any door to chaos, in my mind, or present God as a “pathetic forecaster”. His omnipotence guarantees anything He wants to predict/plan to be certain in the future. The almost infinite possibilities of that future He understands completely, but that future is not known as a completed future, by His choice (a type of Open Theism).
brianwagner writes (to stan), “I see that He is still making choices between possibilities that exist, which causes changes within His infinite understanding of them,…”
As you allow God to know all possibilities, no knew information is generated as people make decisions in time and there is no reason for God’s understanding of those possibilities to change. God is able to decide how He will respond to any situation and it’s multiple possibilities at any time He wants, whether in eternity past or in present time. That decision will be the same because no new information is ever generated so God’s understanding is unchanged.
You say that God delays making decisions until, I think, after a human decision is made. So what! Unless this creates new information (generates a possibility that God did not know would exist), there is no change in God’s understanding. What you seem to be saying is that, by delaying His timing in making decisions, God is generating new information by making decisions that He did not know He would make until He made them. You seem to be saying that God does not know, and cannot know, what He will do until He decides in a sequential time-bound manner. As you can see, I am still having a lot of trouble figuring out what you are saying.
Then, “His omnipotence guarantees anything He wants to predict/plan to be certain in the future.”
Here you allow God to make decisions in eternity past, and this is His plan. So, you allow God to know what He will do (create the universe, not protect Adam/Eve from Satan, impregnate Mary, convert Paul, etc), whose hearts He will turn and in what direction (hardening Pharaoh, softening Cyrus, etc.), and how He will restrain the sin that people will do (Stephan is stoned but Peter preserved from death). The question, then, is what is left outside God’s plan? If God can plan to impregnate Mary, then His plan must include a purpose for doing so which says that the knows that Adam sins and a lot of other things. Would there be any non-trivial events that would be outside God’s plan?
We have been over this path together before Roger, and I am afraid I see myself as not capable of explaining why I do not believe that all God’s decisions are immutably made before creation. Let me respond to one thing that you said that may help.
You said of God’s working out of His any preset decision in time – “That decision will be the same because no new information is ever generated so God’s understanding is unchanged.” I already indicated in discussions with you before that God is not locked to only one response for each response of man’s will. I believe that He does choose to wait and to decide between His understood options when a possible freewill response of man takes place.
His understanding does change in relation to man’s and His responses from knowing them as possible to knowing them as set, but that change does not add or detract from His infinite understanding, for all possibilities are understood fully as if they are set, but known really that they are not until one is and the rest become known as counterfactuals.
You just believe that God had to have only one set reality for the future with no possibilities known by God in it, but only a finished “history” and everything else already known as counterfactuals. The Scripture just does not read that way!
brianwagner writes, ” I already indicated in discussions with you before that God is not locked to only one response for each response of man’s will. I believe that He does choose to wait and to decide between His understood options when a possible freewill response of man takes place.”
I think you have to drop the idea that God can have a plan. With multiple possible responses, God must have an infinite number of plans (at least, a whole lot) meaning that He really can have no unique “plan.” What God can do is “determine” the outcomes of possibilities following a “plan.”. For example, God can choose not to restrain Satan so that Satan can enter the garden to tempt Eve (with an outcome that is certain) and then God refuses to intervene to prevent Adam eating the fruit again making the outcome certain. Later God chooses not to restrain Cain as he sets out to murder Able. Then, God sets Abraham apart to serve Him, provides for Sarah to become pregnant, etc. If we string together all the events in which the Scriptures tell us of God’s involvement in the affairs of Israel, we see the pieces to a plan. That plan says that multiple possible responses are accounted for in the plan and made irrelevant. For multiple response to work, God cannot have a plan other than to plan to ad hoc a plan as events transpire with such plan evolving as events become set. God may have a goal but cannot have a recognizable plan to reach that goal.
Then, “His understanding does change…”
I still don’t see how something that is infinite can be said to change. If God’s understanding does change, it must be finite.
Then, “…but that change does not add or detract from His infinite understanding, for all possibilities are understood fully as if they are set, but known really that they are not until one is and the rest become known as counterfactuals.”
So, God’s understanding does “change” but His infinite understanding does not change. It appears to me that you have one definition of “understanding” and another of “infinite understanding.”
Finally, “You just believe that God had to have only one set reality for the future with no possibilities known by God in it, but only a finished “history” and everything else already known as counterfactuals. The Scripture just does not read that way!”
Certainly, God is able to do this following a “plan” and carry out His plan by virtue of His ability to affect any outcomes He wants through a variety of means. I don’t think you deny God’s ability to affect specific outcomes, e..g, impregnating Mary. You just don’t want God to do it to the extent that I allow even though Scripture allows for it.
You cannot describe anything adequately with words unless you are wiling to admit their metaphysical properties. It could be the case that, just as we all might “see” the color green completely differently, so we all might “think” of the word green in a different way. Especially when it comes to something supernatural, like a God upon which all religion is built. Disbelievers are right to say “I can’t really know what God is by your definition; it makes no sense to me; if it is exists, to know what it is, it must be something I experience; just as all our primal beliefs come from. It would be like describing color to a blind man, or music to a deaf man.”
Free will, will never fit a logical construct, were it a supernatural Imago Dei within the “heart” (not pumping vessel, nor neurons firing in a network), but rather the unthinkable, the indescribable, a creation ex-nihilo as incomprehensible to our minds as a universe out of nothing at all, or a miracle of a resurrection, a floating axe head, a healed leprosy, a sun standing still or going backwards, or even an invisible eternal “breath” to humankind that outlives their mental existence, or a soul that can’t be put in a test tube and labeled and quantified. The whimsical and mystical cannot be affirmed by those whose minds must examine and understand and trace all things and their paths and comings and goings.
Jesus calls us on the path of humbled babes to ever know the revealed mysteries of the Father.
Thanks for the pdf.
Hamilton begins (2nd sentence in), “Calvinists are theistic determinists; that is, they believe that God causally determines the occurrence of all events, including every thought, decision, and action made throughout the lifetime of each human being. Then, ““God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (Westminster Confession of Faith, III/i).” Finally, he contrasts Arminians as being “theistic indeterminists, meaning that they believe that there are at least some events, most notably in the realm of human agency or choice, that God does not causally determine but which instead are determined solely by the free agency of human beings…”
He starts out with a false presumption. We see this in the reference to secondary causes by Calvinists.
Then Hamilton writes, “Compatibilists, then, generally hold that God decisively conditions the desires of human agents to freely choose as God has determined.”
Here, Calvinists put forth original sin and say that Adam’s sin resulted in people becoming slaves to sin and it is sin that is the major determinant (a secondary cause) of people’s desires. People choose as God determines but not because God causes those choices (except through the agency of secondary causes)
After 2 pages, it is hard to take this guy seriously? If I slog through 38 pages of this guy, will I find that he gets anything right?
People choose as God determines but not because God causes those choices (except through the agency of secondary causes)
I wonder what the practical difference is between this and people choosing autonomously as God omnisciently knew beforehand?
I wrote, “People choose as God determines but not because God causes those choices (except through the agency of secondary causes)”
Dizerner asked, “I wonder what the practical difference is between this and people choosing autonomously as God omnisciently knew beforehand?”
Do you mean where the sin nature is the secondary cause? If you understand that context, then we know that the person only chooses sin and God must restrain the person so that things don’t get out of hand. Did you mean anything beyond that for “autonomous” choice? If not, then there is no difference.
It seems you are working hard to distance God as a source to the desires of people’s sin natures.
It seems secondary causes become too powerful a wildcard that separate somehow the causality of people’s choices with God’s choice.
Is God decreeing that his decree carry no real causality? Is God using secondary means in a manner inconsistent with his own Divine meticulous control of all things?
To be honest, whatever the case is, I appreciate Calvinists who take a softer rather than hard-line approach and try to distance God from evil in some sense, it’s quite an instinctive thing to do I think.
This article is so clear. Compatibilism is just another form of theistic determinism. The logic is crystal clear and irrefutable to all but those given to intellectual sophistry. Thanks, Leighton, for sharing this with us. I can see why Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me, for such is the kingdom of God.” There comes a time when simple truth wins out and even a child can see things clearly.
Did you miss this statement: “In the compatibilist scheme, human desire is wholly derived from and wholly bound to the divine desire.”
Did you understand that this is false? Under compatibilism, human desire is derived from the sin nature. The divine desire (or decree) was that Adam’s sin would be transferred to all people by birth and sin would rule each person – Calvin called this the horrible decree.
“The divine desire (or decree) was that Adam’s sin would be transferred to all people by birth and sin would rule each person…”
Which is just another way of saying: “human desire is wholly derived from and wholly bound to the divine desire.”
How can you say it’s false when there is no practical difference? God is still desiring and decreeing each and every sin.
I wrote, “The divine desire (or decree) was that Adam’s sin would be transferred to all people by birth and sin would rule each person…”
Wildswanderer responded, “Which is just another way of saying: “human desire is wholly derived from and wholly bound to the divine desire.”
Didn’t you leave something out? Where does the human desire come from – Adam’s sin. All you have said is that everything is derived from God because God created man. There’s more to it that that.
Wildswanderer writes, “How can you say it’s false when there is no practical difference? God is still desiring and decreeing each and every sin.”
As God is sovereign, this is true. However, this means that God is in control of each and every sin – not that God causes each and every sin. Sin finds its birth in the human sin nature. God may decree that He will restrain the sin that sinners desire to do and God can do this in any manner He wants including bringing the sinner to salvation. Of course, God can free a person to carry out his sinful desires as He did with Pharaoh in hardening his heart.
“Where does the human desire come from – Adam’s sin.”
In a deterministic world, even Adam’s sin and Adam’s desire to sin had to happen by direct decree. I’m not seeing any difference.
wildswandetrer writes, ‘In a deterministic world, even Adam’s sin and Adam’s desire to sin had to happen by direct decree. I’m not seeing any difference.”
Can you tel us what you think God decreed – beyond Adam being free to choose freely whether to eat the fruit and Eve being the agent to entice him to eat. What do you see as God’s role in bringing about His decrees?
“Hence we maintain that, by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined”. [John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.16.8 1539 edition]
“Men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself, and brings to pass by his secret direction.” [John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.18.1 1559 edition]
“The hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external actions; nor would God have effected by the hand of man what he decreed, unless he worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted.” [John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (tr. J. K. S. Reid) (London, 1961) 175f.]
“The will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things.” [John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 177]
“If God controls the purposes of men, and turns their thoughts and exertions to whatever purpose he pleases, men do not therefore cease to form plans and to engage in this or the other undertaking. We must not suppose that there is a violent compulsion, as if God dragged them against their will; but in a wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men, so that they still have the exercise of their will.” [John Calvin, Commentary on Is. 10:15]
“The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not… Man therefore falls, divine providence so ordaining but he falls by his own fault.” [John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion III.23.8]
“How it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance…. I daily so meditate on these mysteries of his judgments that curiosity to know anything more does not attract me.” [John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 124]
“What we must prove is that single events are ordered by God and that every event comes from his intended will. Nothing happens by chance.” [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.16.4]
But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavours, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.” [John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.171-172]
WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
“Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”
It should be abundantly clear that Calvinism maintains there is NOTHING that God has not “decreed”, “destined”, “brings to pass”, “ordained”, “ordered”, “willed”, “effected”. Here is a case where “all” really means “all” to the Calvinist; ie., NOTHING is outside of the decree. Not human will, not human desires, not human choices, not human deliberations, not human decisions…..NOTHING. Therefore it is complete rubbish to speak as if compatibilism is anything less than 100% divine determinism with no human moral responsibility. So-called “voluntary human choices” based upon desires determined by God are choices that themselves fall under the “all” of “all things” determined by God. Everything in creation, according to Calvinism, has been meticulously, eternally, and unconditionally divinely determined in the Calvinist decree. Meticulously: comprehending all. Eternally: prior to creation. Unconditionally: with NO human conditions (desires, choice, thoughts, acts, electrical brain impulses, etc.) placed upon God’s prior decree.
Calvinist compatibilism is a blatant logic contradiction, a Scriptural contradiction, a theological dead-end. John Calvin certainly was no compatibilist: his supralapsarian views were plain and unabashed. God effectuates ALL things, including man’s will. It is a dogged presuppositional belief in an omnicausal decree that calls into question of how close to pantheism is Calvinism.
Abandon such foolish and forced philosophical constructions and stick with the plain sense of Scripture, a text which is far easier to comprehend without recourse to arcane theoretical speculations.
Jeff, I’m not a Calvinist, but I am a Christian deterministic compatibilist. I have a few reservations with some of the statements you’ve made.
Compatibilism is divine determinism, but “with no human moral responsibility” is exactly the thing rejected by compatibilism. Compatibilism is an interpretation of determinism whereby there can be meaningful human moral responsibility, as opposed to interpretations of determinism whereby there is not. Put another way, it is not a corollary of determinism that there is no human moral responsibility. That “costs extra”; it doesn’t “follow for free.”
Further, there are tons of different kinds of compatibilism(s). There’s one for every color of the rainbow! This may frustrate you and others, as if the thing is a moving target, but it’s a fact that the things you’ve said do not rebut “the compatibilistic endeavor” across the board.
For a quick example, let’s say God has a partial interest in the continuation of natural processes as they are, and prefers not to interrupt them with exceptions, save when extremely warranted. If God has this interest, then things are meaningfully conditioned on — say — electrical brain impulses, even though they are ultimately conditioned upon the interests of God (particularly those that would prefer to let nature run its course).
This view admits what everybody rigorous with their trains of logic must conclude, whether Calvinist or Arminian or Orthodox or Open Theist: All things that happen and “stick” must trace themselves to one or more interests of God. A classic example for those who believe in libertarian free will is, “God could have prevented suffering X, but he has another interest, that in allowing for free will, that confounds the interest in nonsuffering circumstantially.” Everyone should agree on circumstantial interest incommensurability, and the ultimate traceback of ALL things that “stick” to interests of God. These is a strict corollary of God’s classical attributes (even if God has omniscience only about the present state of things).
This view, however, also rightly recognizes that an interest in nonintervention, combined with the mathematical reality of chaos under determinism, yields an interesting emergent result: Many things in creation (incuding human will), if not most things, are NOT bursting with meticulous micromanaging teleology, and there is indeed a meaningful sense of teleological distance from the perfection of God, even though all things have an ultimate traceback to his MANIFOLD interests. Google “stanrock micromanaging” for a thought experiment that explains this counterintuitive fact of chaos theory + interests. Google “stanrock sun” for an exploration of how “ultimate causes” vs. “formative emergence” is a dichotomy that must be sustained in philosophy and theology.
“Compatibilism is divine determinism, but “with no human moral responsibility” is exactly the thing rejected by compatibilism.” I realize that compatibilists believe man still has moral responsibility, but that’s a meaningless statement if everything that a human being does has already been unconditionally and eternally meticulously determined by God. Affirming such a contradiction does not remove the contradiction. To state that God determines everything AND man also determines the same things is to raise the question, “How is man separate from God?”
There may be a variety of forms of compatibilism, but I am concerned with the one that Calvinists presuppose with total inability.
Determining, governing, executing, decreeing, regulating, overruling, predestining…these are all action verbs used by Calvinists to describe the eternal decree. Allowing or permitting an action is not determining or causing an action. To permit is to give consent; it is not to cause. To determine is to CAUSE something to happen in a certain way, the controlling or deciding of something’s nature or outcome. Calvinists assert that God determines everything. Well, “everything” leaves out nothing. There is no “and” after “everything”. Whatever compatibilists assert that “Man” wills or desires as a result of God’s prior determining decree is a meaningless statement; Man is a pass-through entity. From Hamilton’s essay:
“Given the claim by determinists that all events and actions are decreed by God, then human desire (the very thing that compatibilists claim allows human choices to be considered free) must itself also be decreed. But if so, then there is nothing outside of or beyond God’s decree on which human freedom might be based. Put differently, there is no such thing as what the human really wants to do in a given situation, considered somehow apart from God’s desire in the matter (i.e., God’s desire as to what the human agent will desire). In the compatibilist scheme, human desire is wholly derived from and wholly bound to the divine desire. God’s decree encompasses everything, even the desires that underlie human choices.
“This is a critical point, because it undercuts the plausibility of the compatibilist’s argument that desire can be considered the basis for human freedom. When the compatibilist defines freedom in terms of desire (i.e., doing what one wants to do), this formulation initially appears plausible only because it tends to (subtly) evoke a sense of independence or ownership on the part of the human agent for his choices. That is, even 6 though the compatibilist insists that God decisively conditions a person’s environment so as to guarantee the outcome of the person’s choices, we can nonetheless envision God’s action in doing so as being compatible with human freedom so long as the human agent in question has the opportunity to interact with his conditioned environment as (in some sense) an independent agent, possessing his own desires and thus owning his choices in relation to that environment. But once we recognize (as we must within the larger deterministic framework encompassing compatibilism) that those very desires of the person are equally part of the environment that God causally determines, then the line between environment and agent becomes blurred if not completely lost. The human agent no longer can be seen as owning his own choices, for the desires determining those choices are in no significant sense independent of God’s decree. For this reason, human desire within the compatibilist framework forms an insufficient basis on which to establish the integrity of human freedom (and from this the legitimacy of human culpability for sin). In this important sense, then, soft determinism folds into hard determinism. “
You wrote, “But that’s a meaningless statement if everything that a human being does has already been unconditionally and eternally meticulously determined by God.”
For my brand of compatibilism, I deny that premise. As I mentioned before, deterministic chaos + an interest in relative nonintervention yields several emergent things, including conditioned determinations and non-meticulous sovereignty. Google “stanrock micromanaging”; there can be teleological independence even given causal dependence. This is the counterintuitive result of accounting for deterministic chaos.
Jeff D. writes, “But that’s a meaningless statement if everything that a human being does has already been unconditionally and eternally meticulously determined by God.”
Stanrock says that God’s determination of events does not destroy the free will of people involved in those events. He has described how God can determine that which comes to pass without interfering with the freedom of a person in making choices.
As Jeff D. opposes this, it would be nice if Jeff D. would describe how he sees God determining events is such that the freedom of a person to make choices is destroyed. It appears that Jeff D. means something entirely different than Stanrock by the phrase, God determines.” I kinda know what Stanrock means when he uses the term; I have no idea what Jeff D. means when he uses the term.
Rhutchin wrote, “As Jeff D. opposes this, it would be nice if Jeff D. would describe how he sees God determining events is such that the freedom of a person to make choices is destroyed.”
Well, how can a person make a choice, if “choice” itself is a divine determination? There is no human making a “choice”. There is no human “willing” anything, “deciding” anything, nor “desiring”, “acting”, “thinking”, “feeling”. To ascribe any of those things to a human entity under Calvinism is to speak of puppets for whom a deity has provided “power”, “agency”, “motion” (Calvin’s terms). If God unconditionally, eternally, meticulously determines [causes something to happen in a certain way, the controlling or deciding of something’s nature or outcome, foreordains, brings to pass, predestines, overrules…whatever word du jour Calvinists prefer] then there is nothing a human “does” in any compatibilistic sense. As I said above, “To state that God determines everything AND man also determines the same things is to raise the question, “How is man separate from God?” When Calvinists assert God has determined “everything”, that must include all things. if God doesn’t meticulously determine all things, then we can leave Calvinism and start a conversation on the possibility of compatibilism.
Consider the following quote from John Calvin in The Institutes, 1.6.3,4:
God is deemed omnipotent…because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel….[A]lways bear in mind, that there is no random power, or agency, or motion in the creatures, who are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed…[T]he world is governed by God, not only because he maintains the order of nature appointed by him, but because he takes a special charge of every one of his works. It is true, indeed, that each species of created objects is moved by a secret instinct of nature, as if they obeyed the eternal command of God, and spontaneously followed the course which God at first appointed.”
I repeat, “There is NO random power, or AGENCY, or MOTION in the creatures, who are so GOVERNED by the secret counsel of God, that NOTHING HAPPENS but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.”
Nothing happens that God has not determined for it to happen. Power, Agency, Motion. Puppet on a string. A mouth moves: God did it. A voice cries out: God did it. A desire takes root in the heart: God did it. A choice is made: God did it. An act is undertaken: God did it. The beating of a heart: God did it. The movement of an atom through the body: God did it. There is no BOTH God AND man in Calvinism, only God.
Jeff D. writes, “Well, how can a person make a choice, if “choice” itself is a divine determination? etc.”
You failed to answer the question. It is true that ““There is NO random power, or AGENCY, or MOTION in the creatures, who are so GOVERNED by the secret counsel of God, that NOTHING HAPPENS but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.”
In other words, God is sovereign. Calvinists believe that God is sovereign and consequently must determine/decree all things.
The question is now to explain the manner that God brings about His decrees such that the freedom of the individual is destroyed. What do you see God doing to bring about His decrees? As you contend that God destroys freedom of the person to choose, can you identify the actions you see God taking that do this.
Quite often in scripture, God does not bring about what he has decreed, because of man’s actions. God said he would destroy Nineveh, but he didn’t, because of man’s actions. Is it somehow wrong in your view for God to make himself subject to man’s actions when He chooses to?
wildswanderer writes, “Quite often in scripture, God does not bring about what he has decreed, because of man’s actions. God said he would destroy Nineveh, but he didn’t, because of man’s actions. Is it somehow wrong in your view for God to make himself subject to man’s actions when He chooses to?”
You are not using the term, “decree,” consistently. We encounter this when people speak of God’s will. God prescribes His will by His law whereby God establishes a synergistic relationship with people. We see this in Deuteronomy 28: “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands that I give you today,…All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:…if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:…” God also says that the person who turns away from their sin will be blessed from Deuteronomy 30: “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” It is in this context that we are to evaluate the events of Ninevah. God’s will is always that people obey His commands yet God has given people the freedom to disobey His commands. God responds to people exactly as He has decreed He will. God is never subject to man’s actions – God is ruling over man as He has declared He would do in the Scriptures.
When we speak of God decreeing all things, we refer to actual events that occur. So, Adam’s sin, Noah’s flood, the betrayal of Christ by Judas, the movement of an atom, etc have all been decreed by God through various means.
“So, Adam’s sin, Noah’s flood, the betrayal of Christ by Judas, the movement of an atom, etc have all been decreed by God through various means.”
Where in scripture are we told that Adam’s sin, for example, was decreed by God? Where are we told that anyone’s sin was decreed by God?
The fact that Adam’s sin occurred and was allowed to “stick” means that it was decreed by God, under the stipulative definition of “decree” employed by many Calvinists, even if libertarian free will is true, and even if Open Theism is true.
This is because even in an extreme hypothetical where God has NO IDEA what’s about to happen, he nonetheless has — and can employ — miraculous reversal as it suits him, and (tautologically) lets things stick only when it suits him in SOME way. Everything “bolted to history” makes reference to one or more interests of a sovereign God, even if God has absolutely no clue about the future. And if “decree” is stipulated as “that which is subordinate to God’s order,” then all “bolted” bad stuff is God’s decree by (that stipulative) definition.
This feels bizarre because we don’t typically think of “decrees” like this. The more natural sense of decree is one in which the natural way of things is radically altered according to a NOVEL mandate. The tragedy is that this “decree” and the earlier stipulative “decree” are spelled the same: d-e-c-r-e-e. But they couldn’t be more philosophically and theologically distinct. And whenever distinct concepts are spelled identically, they spawn near-invincible patterns of communicative Loudness (we’ve seen this for months on this blog).
wildswanderer writes, “Where in scripture are we told that Adam’s sin, for example, was decreed by God? Where are we told that anyone’s sin was decreed by God?”
One verse: “…God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,…” (Ephesians 1:11) “everything” includes sin.
“For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) This verse applies to believers, but can be extrapolated to unbelievers as God exercises sovereign control over both.
Practically, we should agree that God was present standing beside Adam as he first considered the fruit and then ate it. God had right of refusal or negation; God had the final say on whether Adam would eat the fruit as God had the final decision on stopping Adam from eating. God chose not to intervene to prevent Adam eating the fruit and thereby decreed to Adam the freedom to disobey Him and sin. For Brian’s benefit, let’s remember that this scenario played out in God’s mind in eternity past.
If you say that God did not decree that Adam sin then you are saying that God is not sovereign over Adam which would make Adam sovereign over God and Adam would be “God.”
That is an extremely loose definition of decree, Stan. No one is arguing about whether God is the ruler of the universe or the ultimate source of our freedom to choose. God could “invent” or decree total randomness, but that has nothing to do with what most people are calling determinism.
God working good out of evil does not equal God desiring or decreeing evil, in the natural sense of the word decree. If anyone wants to have a meaningful discussion, they need to stick to the natural meaning of words in our current vernacular. It’s a lot more accurate, IMO, to say God allows that which is against His will, for a time, in order to give men free choices.
Sure, God could have created a world where He forced everything into conformity with his will, but that’s not what it says. And there is a sense where God, being good and incapable of not fulfilling his promises, obligates Himself to work in a certain way. Once He has made a covenant with man, he can’t break it and continue to be Himself. The best way to understand God’s workings is to see Him as a primarily relational being. And I think this is where the Calvinists miss it, by elevating his power over his love.
We also need to recognize that ALL our systems of thought about how God acts are flawed. Determinism more so then the rest of course, but they all have their limits, and anytime we go beyond what scripture states, we are just guessing.
wildswanderer writes, “…God desiring or decreeing evil…ALL our systems of thought about how God acts are flawed.”
Flawed or not, how do you see God acting – What do you see God doing? – if He were to desire or decree evil?
IF God were to desire evil, he wouldn’t be the God of the Bible, so I’m not sure how the question is even relevant. I suppose if that were the case, we would have a dualistic world, king
of a ying and yang version of god.
wildswanderer writes, “IF God were to desire evil, he wouldn’t be the God of the Bible, so I’m not sure how the question is even relevant. I suppose if that were the case, we would have a dualistic world, king of a ying and yang version of god.”
You avoided the question. Calvinists say that God decrees that people be free to do evil things – as it is God’s decree, it is His will or desire. The question is how you picture the Calvinist God bringing about the evil that He decrees. You argue against the Calvinist position, but I get the impression that you have built a strawman in order to argue against the Calvinist – even more now since you seem to have purposely avoided showing your hand. Nonetheless, you need to be a little honest with us to advance discussion and tell us how you see God bringing about His decrees in the Calvinist system – especially God’s decrees concerning evil. Surely not ying and yang as that is not Calvinism.
I see the Calvinist God causing both evil and good by pre-programming everything that will ever happen. I’m not purposely avoiding anything, wasn’t sure what you were getting at.
Since Calvinisms roots are in Gnosticism, yes, it is getting pretty close to ying and yang and definitely a dualistic view of God.
wildswanderer writes, “I see the Calvinist God causing both evil and good by pre-programming everything that will ever happen.”
You use language that is not specific. What do you mean by “pre-programmed.” How do you see God “pre-programming” everything – is this part of a false “robot” analogy? How does this relate to God determining everything?
Then, “Since Calvinisms roots are in Gnosticism, yes, it is getting pretty close to ying and yang and definitely a dualistic view of God.”
The gnosticism claim is false. Calvinist theology is solidly bible-based.
I’m not a philosopher per say and in fact, I believe that notion derived from the philosopys of men that were added to the scripture are part of where the church went wrong to begin with. Especially due to Augustine, who was influenced by the philosophy of the day plus his gnostic cult background.
If God is just unilaterally decreeing every movement of ever atom and every scrap of DNA before creation, then we have the exact same scenario that atheistic determinism gives us, only with God pre setting it all, like a computer program. People try to water it down by calling God the author of everything, but it goes much farther then that. How would I know how God does this hypothetical pre-programming? We are told many times in scripture that we can’t completely understand how God works in the real world, so how would we know how he would work in some alternate universe that doesn’t exist?
All we are to do is follow His Word, not man’s philosophical notions.
wildswanderer writes, “If God is just unilaterally decreeing every movement of ever atom and every scrap of DNA before creation, then we have the exact same scenario that atheistic determinism gives us, only with God pre setting it all, like a computer program.”
Not exactly. Atheistic determinism has only natural forces determining all things. No one denies that this is true in some cases – whether it is true in all events is the issue. In Calvinism, natural forces are said to determine what people do. The dominant natural force is the sin nature. God must continuously restrain the evil that people seek to do because of their sin nature. If not, society would collapse. However, in addition to natural forces being restrained by God, we also have the active intervention by God in the affairs of people – God can turn the heart of a person this way or that, God can choose Abraham as the vehicle for creating a nation to serve Him, God can raise up one country and bring down another as He did with Israel. We find examples of God’s interaction with the world throughout history in the Scriptures In salvation, we see many examples of God’s involvement: the issue is whether God’s involvement determines the final outcome. To say that God is “pre setting it all, like a computer program,” is naive and false.
Then, “We are told many times in scripture that we can’t completely understand how God works in the real world,…”
On what basis, then can you deny that God could, and would, actually be determining everything?
How can the sin nature be a natural force if it comes from a supernatural being? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of sin being called a natural force.
God could do whatever he wants. My issue is that that overall Scripture doesn’t describe God working that way.
wildswanderer writes, “How can the sin nature be a natural force if it comes from a supernatural being?”
Remember that we are looking at this from the Calvinist perspective. Adam sinned and his nature became corrupted. God decreed that this corrupted nature be transferred to his children by inheritance (Calvin called this the horrible decree). The sin nature is not given to people by God; it comes through Adam. “…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men…the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men…through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners…” (Romans 5)
Then, “God could do whatever he wants. My issue is that that overall Scripture doesn’t describe God working that way.”
Then, you agree with the Calvinists on this point – Calvinists say that the sin nature came from Adam and not God.
The origin of sin in Genesis isn’t God or Adam, it’s Satan. As for the rest, I’m not even sure what you think I’m agreeing to?
wildswanderer writes, “The origin of sin in Genesis isn’t God or Adam, it’s Satan.”
No. Satan tempted Eve. It was Eve who offered the fruit to Adam who then sinned. Remember what Adam said to God, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Sin originated with Adam. Remember Romans 5, “…sin entered the world through one man…”
Then, “As for the rest, I’m not even sure what you think I’m agreeing to?”
You wrote, “My issue is that that overall Scripture doesn’t describe God working that way.”
To this the Calvinists agree, so you then agree with the Calvinists.
Sure they do, at least the honest ones do.
And what did Eve say? Adam didn’t invent sin, lol.
wildswanderer writes, “Adam didn’t invent sin, lol.”
Fair enough. So, why does Paul ignore Eve and lay everything on Adam, “…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men,…” (Romans 5)
Paul also says, “it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (1 Timothy 2). Paul then says in 1 Timothy 1, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.”
We might conclude that Eve’s sin was one of ignorance and unbelief but Adam’s was willful. It is wilful sin that is the more harshly condemned. Thus, Hebrews 10, “If we deliberately (willfully) keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” Then, 1 John, “The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
I think it might be concluded that Adam was the one who invented sin through a willful act to sin. It was Adam’s sin, not Eve’s, that corrupted all mankind and condemned the human race to destruction.
Since we just seem to talk past each other, I’m going to discontinue these discussions…I was not laying all the blame on Eve either. As far as the origin of sin, we can go farther back then Adam or Eve as we see that Lucifer falling from heaven in Isaiah was the origin of sin, as far as has been revealed to us. I wasn’t commenting on how sin was passed down through Adams disobedience. If we take Calvinism to its logical conclusion as some such as Sproul Jr do, then we would say in your deterministic world, God was the origin and cause of sin.
wildswanderer writes, “If we take Calvinism to its logical conclusion as some such as Sproul Jr do, then we would say in your deterministic world, God was the origin and cause of sin.”
Do you have a citation for Sproul Jr? I am suspicious that you may be misquoting him or citing him out of context.
From the book ” Almighty all over” by Sproul Jr.
God “introduced evil into this world” (p. 51).
“I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that he created sin” (p. 54).
wildswanderer writes, “I am suggesting that he created sin”
The minute God said, “Thous shalt not…” He created sin. Sin would not exist if God never said, “Thou shalt not.” So, Sproul, Jr. says that God created sin because, by implication, God said “Thou shalt not…” Maybe you could read for context and figure out Sproul Jr.’s point.
OK. I don’t see why that is something for anyone to get excited about.
You wrote, “God working good out of evil does not equal God desiring or decreeing evil, in the natural sense of the word decree. If anyone wants to have a meaningful discussion, they need to stick to the natural meaning of words in our current vernacular. It’s a lot more accurate, IMO, to say God allows that which is against His will, for a time.”
I agree! Rhutchin and I have discussed this before. He and I have a number of views in common, but I don’t think “decree” should be used in that more stipulative sense. Google “stanrockpatton twitter” and check out the related Tweet I sent about an hour ago!
There’s a lot in the rest of your post that I agree with as well. As you know, though I’m a determinist, I think there is a very real sense of free will that emerges through deterministic chaos + God’s interest in letting many processes take their courses. However, I don’t think this interest is ancillary to a “goal” of free will, but rather that free will is ancillary to a “goal” of efficacious stewardship and the creative power such stewardship has, especially within the context of a developing relationship.
I also agree that most Calvinists with which I converse do not properly hold God’s love-driven purposes as hierarchically supreme.
Rhutchin, this is what we mean we say that ur god has destroyed any freedom of man’s will:
“The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how muchsoever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay unless in so far as he commands, that they are not only bound by his fetters but are even forced to do him service” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 11)
You can’t even think or move unless ur Puppet Master permits or commands, and even then, ur thoughts are not ur own but a virus program implanted by ur god. And u only move by his fetter that’s in ur mouth. U are the Puppet in every way, sense, shape, and form. Ur god not only moves u by the strings but by ventriloquy. Absolute Control Puppet Master Diety of the Universe. Even Pinocchio had more freedom then u.
Simple writes, “You can’t even think or move unless ur Puppet Master permits or commands, and even then, ur thoughts are not ur own but a virus program implanted by ur god.”
Is it your contention that God is not sovereign?
If not, then God is sovereign over the person’s thoughts as well as actions. People have a sin nature – that sin nature strains against God’s control to conceive and do the greatest evil possible. It is only God’s restraint that prevents people being as evil as they could be and want to be.
I do not see how this makes a person a puppet. It might be better to describe a person as a dog on a leash.
Jeff D. I see ur frustration in arguing with this fool rhutchin. He’s been around these pages and the Web for years arguing in circles. And scripture holds true, that these people like rhtuchin are “ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding.”
It is my opinion that he absolutely understands in layman’s term what we mean when we say that theistic determinism means that their god determines EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! And EVERYTHING means EVERY LITTLE THING WHATSOEVER – WHETHER MATERIAL OR INMATERIAL IN THE CREATED UNIVERSE. His problem is, he suppresses that truth to defend his theories. He fails to see that the fact that when he’s trying to make a truth claim, he has already rise above determinism and is freely debating here on the basis of his free agency. It doesn’t matter how concise an answer u give him, it’s not what his itching wants to hear so he’ll accuse you of a non-answer.
“Jeff D. I see ur frustration in arguing with this fool rhutchin. He’s been around these pages and the Web for years arguing in circles.”
I came to the same conclusion as you have: “rhutchin” fits the biblical profile of the fool.
Some in this age of **political correctness** would rather not have anyone make such a claim. Rhutchin does in fact fit the profile perfectly.
He has been arguing for years, makes the same arguments over and over despite being answered repeatedly. He keeps falsely claiming that non-Calvinists do not or cannot affirm that God foreknows all events. He keeps falsely claiming that since non-Calvinists affirm that Jesus died for all people (i.e. universal atonement) that they affirm universalism (the false belief that all will eventually be saved in the end). Universal atonement is biblical, universalism is false.
One of the ways you know you are in a discussion with a fool is that you end up going around and around in circles. Nothing is advanced, nothing is improved, sometimes his attacks become personal, it is just the same ole same ole time after time with him.
I am surprised that some otherwise intelligent folks keep choosing to dialog with him. One element of wisdom is to discern when you are dealing with a fool and adjust your response accordingly. Some appear to be naïve concerning this person, Brian Wagner views him as his “personal project”. Observing their interactions it appears this project is a failure.
Some here don’t like it when rhutchin’s nature is pointed out, some have attacked me for doing so in the past, it will be interesting to see if the same individuals attack you and chastise you for pointing out this obvious reality now.
Robert, will you cut it out with the snide personal attacks? It is super uncharitable and accomplishes literally nothing.
Stan, maybe we are not here to give charities. We call it how we see it.
“Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool.”
Proverbs 26:7-8 ESV.
It’s one thing to acknowledge and unserstand the opposition’s argument and disagree. But to essentially claim others of a non-answer or that they don’t understand your position over and over and over for years… that’s just foolish. Maybe ur chaos theory does hold true to some degree and our robot theory. Robots are pre-programed for robotic responses and Chaosians for chaotic responses…
“Robert, will you cut it out with the snide personal attacks? It is super uncharitable and accomplishes literally nothing.”
I gotta tell you Stan I don’t take your demand here very seriously. While you peddle some false views such as universalism and your version of determinism. And while you use strange and very idiosyncratic expressions when you present your views. I consider you to be mistaken, but not a fool. You are very intelligent and seem to be a nice guy. But rhutchin is a different animal, he does in fact fit the profile for a fool given in the book of Proverbs. I am not the only one who sees this. Others have said the same thing and come to the same conclusion at different blogs. While I have personally come to this conclusion about rhutchin a few years ago, Simple expressed the same view a few months ago here at this blog and is expressing it again now in this thread). Stan perhaps you missed it a few months ago when he wrote:
February 3, 2016 at 10:29 pm
Robert is right about everything he’s said about you, rhutchin. You are a fool. Stop theorizing theology and go preach the gospel to the lost. We come to this site to sharpen each other and seek the truth and nothing but the truth. If you are here to convert us to Calvinism, stop wasting our time; and space. I’m confident that the audience is not ignorant of what everything Calvinism has to offer and non-Calvinist systematics has to offer.
I’m tired of scrolling through your postings to get to productive dialogue.
Thanks for playing, but you’ve worn out your welcome. …. [somebody had to say it, let it be me. A nobody.] Now where’s the BAN button! Lol]]
I will say that what Simple said here is all true and applies just as much today as it did months ago when he wrote this.
Solomon when he wrote Proverbs used the term “fool” and gave multiple descriptions of folks who fit this category. He was not engaging in “snide personal attacks” nor was he “super uncharitable”. Sometimes the term “fool” does have application to a contemporary person. It should be kept in mind that the term does not mean the person is stupid or lacks intelligence or even education. Instead it refers to a certain mindset. Jesus considered the Pharisees to be fools and they were extremely educated and very intelligent and also very religious.
At least two of here on this thread agree on this designation and to whom it applies.
Some Q&A from the website of Calvinist Vincent Cheung regarding “Compatibilist Freedom”……
Question/Comment: Regarding compatibilist freedom…My understanding of this is that we willingly choose from a God-directed will – whether for good or evil, depending on whether he has hardened or enlightened us. Is there anything in this that you would consider incorrect/unbiblical?
I agree with what you wrote, but contrary to many Calvinists, I disagree that this should be called “freedom” in any relevant sense.
When speaking of freedom in our context, I always speak of freedom in relation to God – and that is why the issue becomes clear. I can consistently use the same definition whether I am dealing with the nature of God, the decree of God, the nature of man, the nature of salvation, or determinism from a philosophical perspective.
Many Calvinists do not speak this way; rather, they say that we always choose what we most desire, but when they add that this is “freedom” in a relevant sense, and that we are responsible based on this “freedom,” then I disagree. Instead, I deny any sense of human freedom and deny any relationship between freedom and responsibility.
Moral responsibility (or accountability) has to do with whether God has decided to judge us; it has no direct relationship with whether we are free. In fact, if we were free from God but not judged by God, then we would still not be morally responsible (or accountable). In other words, moral responsibility does not presuppose human freedom, but it presupposes divine sovereignty. We are responsible not because we are free, but we are responsible precisely because we are not free.
Also, Calvinists often affirm that Adam was free before the Fall. But again, I always speak of freedom relative to God, and from this perspective, I would say that Adam had no freedom even before the Fall. To be “free” from sin is irrelevant. The issue is whether Adam was free from God to choose to remain free from sin – he was not. In addition, I would not say that God permitted Adam to fall, but that God caused it. Many Calvinists would also disagree with me on this.
Compatibilists would most likely refuse to say that we are free from God, but they would insist that since we always act according to the strongest desire of the moment, that this is a real sense of freedom, and that this “freedom” is the precondition for moral responsibility.
Suppose that I have committed a murder. I was indeed free from other creatures when I made my decision, and I acted according to my own desire. But this desire was caused and controlled by God, and the fact that I would always act on my strongest desire (which is human nature) was also caused by God. This amounts to saying that we have no freedom from God to abstain from murder, but that we only have an internal freedom from other creatures to abstain from murder.
If we were to soften this and say that our desires are somehow not determined but merely permitted by God, then, even overlooking the fact that this is unbiblical, we must still explain how it is possible for God to permit something without causing it, and still immutably decree it to happen in a sense that is not merely an expression of prescience. If we cannot, then we are Arminians.
Also, if God merely permits us to do something, then I would also demand a metaphysical explanation on how it is possible for a creature to direct and control its own mind. Is it possible for a created thing to function at all under God’s bare permission (if there is such a thing) without his constant causative determination? How?
Calvin wrote, “Indeed, not even an abundance of bread would benefit us in the slightest unless it were divinely turned into nourishment.” This sounds like my occasionalism. There is no inherent “nature” or power in bread that always works with the body to provide nourishment, but it must be “divinely turned into nourishment” each time it is consumed. If Calvin was a Calvinist, or if Calvin was himself, then this is the true Calvinism.
My position is a consistent application of divine sovereignty over everything. It is a denial of any form of dualism or deism. I affirm that God controls everything about everything that is anything, including every aspect of every detail of every human decision and action, in such a way that man has no freedom in any meaningful or relevant sense.
Libertarian freedom is indeed freedom, but it is unbiblical and impossible – there is no such freedom. On the other hand, compatibilist freedom is not “freedom” at all, but it is only a description of what happens when God controls every aspect of our decisions and actions, usually according to a “nature” that he has also created in us. Both the words “compatibilist” and “freedom” are misleading.
Question/Comment: I would consider myself a “Calvinistic” Baptist. According to my understanding, sin entered this world through the disobedience of Adam and not as a result of the determining purpose of God.
Actually, all Calvinists would affirm that sin came as a result of God’s decree, so that it was determined at least in this sense. The difference is that many of them say that this is a “passive” or “permissive” decree, whereas my position is that there is no such thing as a “passive” or a “permissive” decree with God, that it is unbiblical and impossible for a divine decree to be “passive” or “permissive.”
It is correct to say that sin came through the disobedience of Adam, but this is not the debated issue. The issue is what caused this disobedience. To say that before the Fall Adam had “free will” is irrelevant unless by this “free will” is meant freedom from God. If this is what is meant, then this is Paganism, not Calvinism. If only freedom from sin is meant, then again this is irrelevant, since the relevant question in discussing divine determinism is whether Adam was free from God to abstain from sin, not whether he was free from sin to abstain from sin.
Although they might also acknowledge that it is God who determines this desire, unlike me, they might deny that God always actively and directly causes our desires, whether good or evil.
Quoting Cheung, “…contrary to many Calvinists, I disagree that this should be called “freedom” in any relevant sense…I always speak of freedom in relation to God…”
I suspect Cheung has provided an exhaustive treatment elsewhere that would extend his comments as cited.
Only God has true free will. This is because God is knows all things, understands all things that He knows, and applies His knowledge and understanding in perfect wisdom. Because man is generally ignorant, has little understanding, and lacks wisdom, we could say, with Cheung, that man does not have “’freedom’ in any relevant sense.” But, so what?
In Romans 2, Paul writes, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Following Paul, we understand the freedom that people enjoy to be that whereby they are able to judge actions as good or bad from a human perspective and then choose to engage in that which they deem good while avoiding what they deem wrong.
A person is then held morally responsible for judging others to do things that he deems wrong and then engaging in those same things – thereby the person judges himself to be a sinner under his law. Where the person agrees with God that certain activities are sin (by judging those who do these things) and then does those things, then he is morally responsible to God for his actions.
However, people like to add that the person must be “free” in his actions to be truly responsible. Calvinists say that such freedom means only that the person is not coerced to act in any particular manner and acts consistent with his desires. Non-Calvinists want to require a higher standard of “freedom” where a person seems to act without motivation and can choose to act contrary to his desires. That seems ludicrous to Calvinists for who has even seen a person act without motivation and against his desires. Even the non-Calvinist has not been able to craft an example to illustrate their position.
Anyway, the citation from Cheung does not add anything to the discussions so far other than to illustrate the confusion that exists on this topic.
More Q&A from Calvinist Vincent Cheung…..
Question/Comment: Why do you think the Westminster Divines stated that God ordained whatsoever comes to pass and then also stated that God is not thereby the author of sin?
It seems that, like most theologians, they assumed that to cause evil is to commit evil; therefore, they had to distance God from evil. However, the assumption that to metaphysically cause evil is to morally commit evil is false, and rarely even mentioned or defended. It is taken for granted, but these are two separate issues. One deals with how something can happen at all, and the other deals with what moral laws God has declared to define what is good and what is evil. If he has not declared that it is evil for himself to metaphysically cause evil, then how dare men say that it is evil for him to do so?
To say that God is not the author of sin necessarily means that his sovereignty cannot be direct and exhaustive. That God is totally sovereign is something that the Bible clearly teaches. On the other hand, that God is not the author of sin is something that men wish to maintain against the Bible. Therefore, they affirm both, and most theologians attempt to work around it with permissive decrees (but the concept makes no sense), secondary causes (but does God directly cause and control these “secondary” causes or not?), and compatibilism (but this is irrelevant, since if God controls all things, then the fact that men make choices and what choices they make are also controlled by God, so that this means only that God is compatible with himself; thus the idea is a red herring that does not address the question).
When you refuse to accept nonsense and press the issue, they throw up their hands and call it a mystery, and call you a heretic if you insist that the biblical doctrine is clear. But if this is permitted, then anyone can hold any position on any issue, and just call it a mystery.
Question/Comment…the Westminster Confession on secondary causes and the author of sin: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
I believe that if a person is a Christian and somewhat intelligent, then if we were to repeat, “If God is not the direct metaphysical cause of something, then something else is,” to his face over and over again, eventually he would realize what this really means and would become just as alarmed and repulsed at the notion as we are. But perhaps both faith and intelligence are rare, and the combination even less likely.
As for secondary causation, I have addressed this a number of times. If all else fails, I can say that I did not write the books, but my computer did. The fact that I was typing on it when the books appeared does not nullify the authorship of the computer or its moral responsibility, but only establishes it. If the reply is that the computer is not an intelligent mind but a dead object, I would insist that Dual Core is superior to a lump of clay (Romans 9). In any case, if God’s authorship is only so distant (I did not make the computer, the software, nor did I make or control the electricity), he might not be so clearly the author of sin.
Question/Comment:…in the Westminster Confession it is stated: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
Arthur W. Pink wrote in a book about the sovereignty of God: Once more, it needs to be carefully borne in mind that God did not decree that Adam should sin and then inject into Adam an inclination to evil, in order that His decree might be carried out. No; “God cannot be tempted, neither tempteth He any man” (James 1:13). Instead, when the Serpent came to tempt Eve, God caused her to remember His command forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and of the penalty attached to disobedience! Thus, though God had decreed the Fall, in no sense was He the Author of Adam’s sin, and at no point was Adam’s responsibility impaired. Thus may we admire and adore the “manifold wisdom of God”, in devising a way whereby His eternal decree should be accomplished, and yet the responsibility of His creatures be preserved intact.
If I am right, then they must be wrong. The question is, how can they be right without self-contradiction — that God controls all things, but he really doesn’t, that God causes all things, but he really doesn’t? The Reformed is fond of appealing to “mystery,” “paradox,” and “antinomy,” which are nothing but more dignified and deceptive terms for saying, “Clearly, I contradict myself, but I don’t care.” Instead, it seems to me that divine sovereignty is an altogether clear and coherent doctrine. It is so easy to understand. I have also answered the almost universal abuse of James 1:13. Temptation and causation are two different things, and the topic is causation, not temptation.
We must submit to the direct teachings of Scripture and its necessary implications, and not the traditions and good intentions of men.
More writings from the website of Calvinist Vincent Cheung….
A doctrine of compatibilism is often asserted. It is said that God’s sovereignty is compatible with man’s freedom because man’s decisions are not coerced, but that man always acts according to his strongest desire. Then, this so-called freedom is often used as a basis for man’s moral responsibility.
However, if God’s sovereignty is exhaustive, then everything is explained by it, including man’s desires and the fact that he acts according to his desires. So the fact that there is no coercion is not an indication of freedom, but a reflection that God controls all things. And even if there is resistance, it does not indicate freedom, but that for his own purpose, God is causing one thing to react against another.
In other words, the doctrine of divine sovereignty is such an overarching principle that everything else is explained and interpreted by it. Under this principle, compatibilism is rendered irrelevant. Since there is only one true cause, compatibility cannot be used to make a point other than to say that this one cause is compatible with himself. To say that anything under this system is compatible with another thing is to say nothing other than that God is compatible with himself.
If I assert that I have power over my door, you could think you are very clever and point out that my closing the door is compatible with the door closing. Of course! And the door is not coerced! But this does not grant any freedom to the door, and the door does not close by its own will and power. The statement fails to make any point other than to reaffirm that I have power over the door.
Likewise, to say that God is sovereign and that man decides according to his own desire is to say that God causing a man to have a desire and to decide according to this desire is compatible with God being sovereign. But this only tells me how God uses his sovereignty, or what he does with it. If the aim is to carve out a place for human freedom, or to make a point other than to reaffirm God’s sovereignty, it is entirely unsuccessful. It is one of the silliest things in theology.
Some have tried to rescue the doctrine by claiming that I have misrepresented it. They say that the theologians do not call this a kind of freedom, or whether they do or not, they do not make it a basis for moral responsibility. I have two answers to this. First, these people evidently do not know what compatibilism teaches. Theologians indeed call it a kind of freedom, and many if not most of them do make it a basis for moral responsibility. I have documented this with some of the same theologians they claim that they rely on to define the doctrine. Second, if the doctrine is never called a kind of freedom, and never used as a basis for moral responsibility, this might make it less absurd, but it also makes it even less relevant. It becomes a misleading observation that makes no point. And if the only point is that human decisions are not coerced, I have already answered this above.
It is sometimes said that my biblical position resembles pantheism, since it maintains that God is the only real cause. But this is not so much an objection to be answered than an assumption to be exposed and marveled at with horror. The person who makes this objection assumes that God is identified with whatever he controls or causes, so that if God controls and causes all things, then he is identified with the whole universe, resulting in pantheism. The Scripture and I reject this assumption, and there is nothing inherent in the idea that God is the only cause to compel an identification with pantheism. It is not impossible or contradictory to affirm that God controls and causes all things, but that he is not identified with those things. He can fully control a rock and not be the rock. Unless there is an argument to force this identification, there is nothing else to say by way of reply.
Still, Christians, including some Calvinists and Reformed theologians, use this assumption against a strong view of divine sovereignty, such as when Dabney opposed Edwards on the matter of continuous creation, and it has been used against me also. But if they use this assumption to oppose total divine sovereignty, they must continue to use it when they refer to any degree of control or causation by God. Now they are stuck with this false assumption that they use on other people. If they affirm that God is totally sovereign, then according to their own assumption, they are the pantheists. If they affirm that God is not identified with the whole universe, or if they reject pantheism, then they cannot affirm that God is totally sovereign. They will have to settle with a strange blend of finite deity and partial pantheism. Thus they must either accept this conclusion and renounce the Christian faith, or they must abandon the assumption and admit that the doctrine that says God is the only true cause is not the same as pantheism. This is also one of the silliest things in theology.
The biblical doctrine is much simpler: God is sovereign, and man is not free. Divine sovereignty is incompatible with man’s freedom. This has nothing to do with moral responsibility, since moral responsibility refers to accountability, and God holds man accountable; therefore, man is responsible. Human freedom has no logical entry into the discussion.
Thanks very much for sharing those quotes from Cheung.
I have often stated that there are two very different forms of Calvinism (consistent Calvinism and Inconsistent Calvinism). Consistent Calvinism **is** consistent with the one premise that drives the whole thing (i.e. that God predetermines every event that takes place, or as the Westminster Confession puts it: “He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”, that “whatsoever” means if held consistently EVERY EVENT THAT TAKES PLACE in history with no exceptions).
One of the best examples of what consistent Calvinism looks like is Vincent Cheung and his writings readily available on the internet. Cheung is a perfect example of consistent Calvinism.
What often occurs when you bring him up as an illustration of what consistent Calvinism really looks like is that more squeamish Calvinists, those who are inconsistent (i.e. they want to profess that God ordains every event, but then they will argue for things inconsistent with this premise such as that people choose freely or that people have free will etc. etc. etc.): will claim that Cheung is a “hyper-Calvinist” or “extreme” version of Calvinism. Cheung is no extreme, rather, he is a consistent Calvinism.
And if you want to see another consistent Calvinist check out Calvin himself (as someone has already shared Calvin quotes in this thread, just compare what Calvin says with what Cheung says, they make the same claims as both are consistent Calvinists).
The quotes from Cheung and Calvin that have been shared in this thread all show the same thing: what a consistent calvinist looks like and what they believe.
Just a note of CELEBRATION! 🙂 🙂 🙂 …. This is your 100th post by my count Leighton! What a blessing this site has been to many and to me!
Do we get to call you Dr. Flowers now – not because of your 100th post but the other stuff.
Here’s the thing about “free will:” If man is not soul + spirit, then it makes perfect sense. If man is only spirit in his spiritual essence, then yeah .. if you are dead to God, your will is not free to choose God. You CAN’T even know God if you are dead to Him, right? nor can you know how to do Godly good.
But the whole thing is based on a false premise. The Bible says that we are body, soul, and spirit (5Thes 5:23, etc.). The spirit — mind, emotions, and WILL — is where we process EVERYTHING that comes in through our ears, eye, etc. Then it compares what is heard with what is in the HEART (personal wisdom). The heart is part of the soul of which conscience and sin nature are also a part. Do you know what is the key to “opening” the heart and the “dead” soul? Sin guilt on the conscience — which is the first thing that the gospel and the Spirit speak to (Jn 16:8-10, etc.). This leads to the “broken heart.”
And you know what God calls for in salvation? “God is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saves such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Isa 34:18) Repentance of spirit (change belief) and of heart (change of FAITH) and, once we’re saved, of flesh (change of behavior) so that we may be “wholly blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thes 5:23)
So when your WILL is FREED from ignorance of the gospel, you are able to choose salvation in Christ .. repent to God in your heart/soul .. and receive forgiveness (sin nature is gone), salvation of our soul, and regeneration (the “divine nature”). Sin nature is “my will be done” .. divine nature is “Thy will be done.”
“So when your WILL is FREED from ignorance of the gospel, you are able to choose salvation in Christ …”
Not only is the person able to choose salvation, but that is exactly what the person does. Being no longer ignorant, the decision is a no-brainer – the person naturally chooses salvation.
Observers watching Calvinists defending their system’s logical entailment’s concerning God’s role in sinful evil events, occasionally note the Calvinist appears to operate as a kind of double-agent. Let me explain what I mean by double-agent. Lets say we have a double-agent operating between the U.S. and Russia. When he is in Russia, he operates as an agent for the U.S. and when in the U.S. he operates as an agent for Russia.
Now in this model, Russia and the U.S. hold certain doctrines that are antagonistic to each other. So when in Russia, the agent’s enunciations must display solidarity with Russia, and disapproval of U.S. doctrine. But when in the U.S., the agent’s enunciations must display solidarity with the U.S., and distance himself from Russian distinctives. The agent learns how to communicate in such a way as to represent the doctrines of either side, without people in dialog recognizing it.
The way people watching Calvinists observe this phenomenon can look like the following:
(1) The Calvinist harshly condemns a doctrine of (lets say Arminianism or Molinism).
(2) The Calvinist then uses that very doctrine which he previously condemned, as a defense for Calvinism, representing it AS-IF it were THE Calvinist position on an issue of disagreement.
People in dialog with the Calvinist are totally unaware when the Calvinist is actually presenting an Arminian or a Molinist distinction AS-IF it were a Calvinist distinction, because the Calvinist has previously harshly condemned all things Arminian and all things Molinism. And so in this type of dialog, they get drawn around in useless never ending circles, totally trying to make sense of his “so called” Calvinist distinctive, when he is REALLY, presenting an Arminian or Molinist distinctive as a defense position.
Let us say there is a line, which we will call the “Continuum of Determinism”. From left, to right on this line we have: Very-low to medium determinism = ‘SOFT’ determinism. Medium to high determinism = SEMI-HARD determinism. High to Ultra-high determinism = “HARD” determinism. The Calvinist has his pick of any place along that spectrum he wants to position himself and still be a Calvinist.
When representing God’s role in GOOD events, which come to pass, he will instinctively lean towards the HARD end of the continuum, presenting God as meticulously rendering certain *ALL* things that come to pass, sometimes to the point of stipulating that God controls every neurological impulse every human brain can have, as way of glorying in the Calvinist’s superior distinction of divine sovereignty.
However when representing God’s role in SINFUL EVIL events which come to pass, he instinctively realizes the ethical-moral consequences the HARD determinist’s position entails. So, functioning as a kind of double-agent, he can switch to representing a SOFT or Non-deterministic position. And if he does this, people often don’t realize he is actually presenting an Arminian position or a Molinist position AS-IF it were the Calvinist position. They are unaware of this because previously he has harshly condemned all things Arminian and all things Molinist. Its good to keep a watchful eye out for this phenomenon, and in dialog, not to get drawn around in useless never-ending circles by it.
br.d writes, “When representing God’s role in GOOD events, which come to pass, he will instinctively lean towards the HARD end of the continuum, presenting God as meticulously rendering certain *ALL* things that come to pass,…However when representing God’s role in SINFUL EVIL events which come to pass,…he can switch to representing a SOFT or Non-deterministic position.”
This is simplistic and ignores basic Calvinist concepts.
1. Calvinism says that “good” does not occur naturally (God must cause it) and anything “good” must be given by God. Thus, any “good” that happens is determined (and caused) by God down to the smallest detail – God is meticulous in all that He does.
2. Calvinist say that “evil” is naturally occurring (God does not have to cause it) and must always be kept under restraint by God. God’s exercises absolute control over all evil and no evil naturally occurs unless God eases His restraint on that evil.
The distinction made between hard and soft determinism is a smokescreen, basically a strawman, used to argue a point that means nothing. How about taking Calvinism head-on and saying something constructive.
I believe God Created the heavens and earth. He is the Creater we are created beings. I also believe that Christ said it is finished. Paid in full. Unless you believe in universal salvation there exists some limitations. We love God because He first loved us. It rains on the just and the unjust. I believe God is sovereign and I am not. Christ paid the price for my sin. Sovereignty is a comfort. I believe that salvation is Christocentric. Free Will as a base for salvation tends to be anthropocentric. However, I also believe that it vital that we show the world that we can disagree and love one another.