Most of you who follow this blog or the podcast are well aware of my stance on the moral abilities of man in response to God’s gracious truth. The Bible say absolutely NOTHING about fallen man losing his capacity to respond willingly to God’s own appeals to be reconciled from that fall. To maintain such a perspective one must biblically establish that the fall somehow caused everyone to become morally unable to see, hear, understand and repent of their fallenness even in light of God’s gracious provisions for the fallen world (i.e. sending of the Prophets, the Law, His own Son, the Apostles, the Bride, the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures).
Some Calvinists do not seem to understand the Traditionalist’s perspective on this point. For instance, one good Calvinistic pastor and author, Marc Minter, set up the dilemma in this manner:
One theologian said, “Man insists that his will is free, when in fact he is a slave to sin and the Devil.” Another denies “that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will.” The contrast could not be starker. One view claims an utter slavery and bondage of the will, and another view claims that there is no ‘incapacitation’ of the will. These contemporary theologians are not the only ones to have drawn such distinct lines, but they do present us with at least two clear answers to the question at hand: After the fall, is the human will free or fettered? One says, “Fettered!” and the other says, “Free!” Let us consider the arguments. <link>
He says, “The contrast could not be starker,” yet I would have absolutely no problem at all affirming both of these theological statements. I, along with all Traditionalists, readily affirm with our Calvinistic brethren that mankind is in bondage to sin. Marc has created somewhat of a false dichotomy here by suggesting that these two views are somehow opposed to each other. There is nothing about being in slavery that makes one incapable of recognizing their chains and accepting God’s help to be freed when its offered.
CONSIDER THIS ANALOGY
Suppose an alcoholic man is finally confronted by all his friends and family about his addiction. They schedule an intervention and confront him boldly about his poor choices and how it has affected every aspect of his life. At first he tells them that he is fine and that he can stop drinking anytime he wants. They all insist this is not true and continue to point out all the times that he had tried to quit but could not. After hours of back and forth his 17 year old daughter finally enters into the conversation. After hearing his daughter’s emotional and loving plea, he finally breaks down weeping. He confesses his addiction and accepts the help that the group offers by checking into a rehab facility.
Is it true that this man was an addict and a slave to alcohol? Yes. Is it true that this man still had the ability to humbly admit his addiction and accept the help that was offered? Yes. Both are true. The alcoholic, like every sinner, is in bondage, yet he is still capable of owning up to that problem so as to receive the needed help.
We are all sinaholics, but we are all still responsible to “humble ourselves” just as the scriptures call us to do over and over again without qualification. (see here)
Imagine what would happen if one of the family members of the alcoholic insisted that his addiction to alcohol equaled his inability to accept the help being offered? Besides possibly squelching the group’s desire to even confront and try to convince the man to confess his addiction, they would have to realize that the only solution would be to incapacitate him in some manner and throw him in the rehab facility against his will. Or, if that was too violent, I guess they could have drugged him somehow to make his desires change so that he would willingly check into the facility. It is only when they insist that he is unable to freely admit his bondage to alcohol after being lovingly confronted that newly invented solutions must be offered (i.e. effectual calls or irresistibly grace or pre-faith regeneration — none of which are explicitly expounded upon by any biblical authors or early church fathers).
Marc, along with many other well-intending Calvinistic brethren, have simply conflated the concept of bondage to sin (addiction) with a moral incapacity to humble oneself and confess that enslaved condition so as to receive the help that is being offered (responsibility).
KEY POINT: Affirming that all people are slaves to sin IS NOT EQUAL to affirming that all people are morally incapable of humbly confessing that fact when the truth is made clearly known! Slavery to sin IS NOT EQUAL to the moral inability to confess our enslavement in response to God’s loving provision and powerful Holy Spirit inspired appeals for reconciliation.
Marc’s representation of the dilemma continues,
If God created man only to fail and then punished him for his failure, then it seems that some people will begin to question God’s character. And yet, we do find that both Scripture and experience present fallen man as having an inclination towards evil and sin.
I must point out here that having an inclination toward evil and sin is not equal to having the moral incapacity to humbly own up to that inclination and accept the help that is offered. Marc assumes that it does as you can see from what he goes on to conclude,
Therefore, it also appears unreasonable to claim that man’s will is unaffected by the original fall into sin.
Unaffected? I do not know of any Traditionalist or Arminian who would say that man’s will is unaffected by the fall. That would be tantamount to saying that the alcoholic was unaffected by his addiction to alcohol. Marc is not addressing our actual point of contention here. He is establishing a point we all already affirm — mankind are enslaved sinners and in need of a Savior (they are sinaholics)! What he needs to address is how one’s slavery to sin makes him morally incapable of humbling confessing that fact in light of the clear gospel appeal. Marc, like most Calvinists in my experience, presumes this point and thus begs the question in contention. He continues,
Furthermore, God’s sovereignty over whatsoever comes to pass would also seem to limit the freedom of man to act independent of God’s authority. Herein lies the apparent conflict between God’s freedom and man’s, which has a direct impact on perceived human responsibility.
Here Marc set’s up God’s sovereignty as if its somehow in opposition to man’s ability to respond freely to His own appeals. He makes this same error later in this article when he writes,
… professor Flowers and others reject any notion of God’s sovereignty over human will as a matter of philosophical a priori.”
Marc’s misinterpretation of what it means to be “sovereign” has lead him to believe that I would not affirm God’s sovereignty over human will. Marc is presuming that it was not God’s sovereign will to grant mankind this freedom in the first place. We can affirm that “God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him,” (Ps. 115:3) while still holding on to the equally valid truth that, “the highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16). This means it pleases God to give man a certain level of “autonomy” or “separateness.” This is a biblical view of divine sovereignty and human freedom. As A.W. Tozer so aptly expressed,
“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God
Calvinists, as represented by Marc’s statements, often misapply the biblical use of the word “good” in reference to meriting one’s salvation. This is best seen in Marc’s opening paragraph,
I shall attempt to demonstrate that the will of fallen and unregenerate humanity has been radically corrupted by sin, it is in bondage to sin, and it is thereby morally unable to choose genuine good.
Put in a way that would correspond to our analogy above: “I shall attempt to demonstrate that the will of an alcoholic has been radically corrupted by his addiction to alcohol, he is in bondage to alcohol, and he is thereby morally unable to humbly admit his addiction and receive the help that is offered.” Can you see the leap that Marc has made? He is resting his entire premise on a non-sequitur: if (a) man’s a sinaholic then (b) man cannot confess that condition even when confronted by those who love him and offer genuine help.
He has equated bondage to sin with the moral inability to confess sin without one single biblical text to verify that link. Yes, he has many biblical passages that speak of man’s slavery to sin, but if you notice carefully the Calvinist just assumes that equals the moral inability to humble one’s self even when graciously confronted by God’s “intervention” of the Holy Spirit’s inspired gospel appeal sent through His own Bride.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the last phrase in Marc’s statement above. He says, “[The will] is thereby morally unable to choose genuine good.” Here we must ask ourselves what is meant by “genuine good?” Does he mean that the unregenerate is unable to refrain from any sin whatsoever? I do not think so. Calvinists readily admit that even heathens can participate in altruistic actions toward their fellow man and that they are not “as bad as they could be.” Anyone can refrain from murder or adultery even if they do not affirm the Christian faith. That is not what is meant.
I suppose they must mean “that which would merit one’s salvation.” No one can do enough good things to earn righteousness or pay off their sin debt. And to that I would say, “Amen!” Even faith in God is as worthless as a filthy rag if not for the blood of Christ to pay the price.
So, here is the 64,000-dollar question. Does humbly confessing your sin in faith merit your salvation? If it does, then why did Christ have to die? When Abraham believed and put his trust in God did that merit his salvation? No. He had a debt that had to be paid. He had broken God’s law and fallen short of His Glory, just like everyone else (Rom. 3:23). Christ had to pay the debt of Abraham’s sin which reveals that his contrite heart and faith in God was not “good enough” to merit salvation. We are only justified by Christ’s atoning sacrifice covering us through faith. Confessing our bondage to sin no more merits our being saved than an alcoholics confession of being addicted undoes his addiction or the harmful consequences of all his wrong doing.
Jesus used this parable to explain a relevant truth about our justification,
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Now, did the publican merit or earn his justification because of his humble confession? If so, he would not need Christ’s atonement. Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven and it certainly does not pay off your debt. If you think confessing that you owe a huge debt merits the forgiveness of that debt, why don’t you try that approach the next time the credit card company calls looking for their money? Good luck.
Because Calvinists have turned a humble confession into a meritorious work they go on to insist that God must be the effectual cause of such humility. They argue, “If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God it is because the Holy Spirit has given that person a new, humble nature…” <link> In other words, Calvinists believe that humility is an effectual result of regeneration. Therefore, one has to be regenerate in order to even recognize and admit their need for regeneration.
But, is humility the result of an effectual work of God?
It may surprise some to hear that I do believe God effectually humbles some people. I just do not believe those people will be saved. Consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 23:12, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Let’s consider the first phrase of Christ’s teaching, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled…”
This is “effectual humility!” God will effectually humble those who exalt themselves and notice that these “effectually humbled” people will be eternally separated from God. God does not effectually humble everyone. He only effectually humbles those who refuse to humble themselves!
As Christ goes on to say, “whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” In other words, you must humble yourself OR God will do it for you in judgment. Yet, Calvinists teach God effectually humbles everyone:
1) On Calvinism God effectually humbles the elect unto salvation.
2) On Calvinism God effectually humbles the non-elect unto damnation.
You must ask yourself if this was Christ’s intent in this passage or any other? Is God responsible for whether or not you humbly confess your sin or is that your responsibility? Jesus had no problem simply saying that you must humble yourself so as to be justified. The Psalmist said, “You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty” (Ps. 18:27).
The only time the scriptures teach us that God effectually humbles a sinful man is in judgment. Every other time it clearly places that responsibility on us.
LIBERTARIAN FREEDOM RIGHTLY DEFINED
In conclusion, I would like to address Marc’s misunderstanding of “libertarian free will” (LFW). He writes,
Humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). As such, humans are volitional beings, but that volition (or will) has been affected by the entrance of sin into creation (Genesis 3:6). …Before the fall of mankind into sin, the will of man may be described as both free to sin (i.e. disobey God) and free to not sin (i.e. perfectly obey God). However, the question here is concerning the will of man after the fall of sin.
This seems to establish what we would refer to as LFW (the categorical ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action). Marc, however, defines LFW in a manner I have never read from any non-Calvinistic scholar:
The kind of human freedom demanded by incompatibilists is called Libertarian Freedom, which is choosing against all influences and causes in order that there be no determining reason for any particular choice. However, such freedom is simply foreign to the Bible.
Not only is this foreign to the Bible, but its foreign to any LFW advocate I’ve ever studied. It might serve Marc well to allow us to define the meaning of our own terms before writing a critique, otherwise it serves only as a straw-man argument. But Marc is not alone in misrepresenting LFW. The Founders ministry published an article making a similar error:
Proponents of libertarian freedom say that given all the causes and influences involved, including the man’s own character, personality, and preferences, his choice to turn left or right is not determined. The man is free to choose against all influences and causes such that there is no determining or governing reason for his particular choice.
This is an incomplete picture of the claims made by proponents of LFW. If one desires to understand and thus address this perspective, it might better be defined in the following manner:
Proponents of libertarian freedom say that given all the influences involved, including the man’s own character, personality, and preferences, his choice to turn left or right is determined by his will alone. The man is free to choose for or against any or all influences such that there is no determining factor for his particular choice outside the own function of his will, which is mysterious and beyond full comprehension.
The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.
The Founder’s blog article made the same foundational error in their assessment of LFW by presuming a deterministic premise and neglecting to affirm that the mysterious function of the will itself is what determines the agent’s choice. The cause of a choice is the chooser. The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as they attempt to frame it. Plus, it should be noted that on our view God is not the only “determiner” or “chooser” who exists and its that way because God sovereignly decreed it to be that way.
If someone has an issue with the self-determination of LFW simply apply the same principle to the question, “Why did God choose to create?” He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His libertarian free will? The same question can be asked of Lucifer’s and Adam’s first choice to rebel. Calvinists appeal to same mystery as the LFW advocate when it comes to each of these free choices, yet they act as if they are somehow avoiding this mystery. Whether discussing Satan’s first act of rebellion or Adam’s first choice to sin, it becomes quite evident that the Calvinist has painted himself into a corner by attempting to deny LFW.
While on the one hand arguing that mankind will always act in accordance with his nature (assuming the nature could not be libertarianly free, mind you), the Calvinist has no rational answer as to why Adam (or Lucifer) chose to rebel. For instance, John Piper openly admits:
How God freely hardens and yet preserves human accountability we are not explicitly told. It is the same mystery as how the first sin entered the universe. How does a sinful disposition arise in a good heart? The Bible does not tell us.
And RC Sproul similarly teaches,
But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.
As you can clearly see, the Calvinist has just “kicked the can down the road,” so to speak, when it comes to appealing to the mystery of LFW. They eventually appeal to the same mystery that we do, all the while thinking they are taking the higher moral ground by giving God all the credit for the Christian’s choice to repent and trust in Christ. In reality, however, by not accepting the mystery of LFW, the Calvinist has created a new mystery that is simply not afforded by the text of scripture.
Calvinists have no rational answer against the charge of divine culpability for moral evil if their claims are true. John Calvin himself admitted as much when he wrote:
“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.”
Calvin’s mystery is far more serious than admitting we don’t know how the function of the will works. He is saying he can’t explain why God isn’t culpable for all moral evil. In other words, Calvin has to appeal to mystery when it comes to whether or not God is good! If Calvin just accepted the mystery of LFW he could use the Free Will Theodicy instead of virtually having to say, “I don’t know,” when someone asks, “Is God Good?”
*For a Traditionalists interpretation of 1 Cor 2:14 please CLICK HERE.
ADDED DIALOGUE (7/5/17):
In a recent article (seen above), I referenced a Calvinistic brother (Marc Minter) in my effort to explain a common logical fallacy employed by Calvinists to discredit the Traditional soteriological perspective. That fallacy is called a “false dichotomy,” which is framing the issue as if the reader must accept one of two options when in actuality other options are available. Ironically, Marc used a title which once again seems to rest on this fallacy, “NOT ‘SINAHOLICS;’ SIN-SLAVES.”
Marc’s original article framed our disagreement in such a way that suggested we would not agree with him regarding man’s bondage or slavery to sin, which is inaccurate. We affirm with Calvinists that sinners are in bondage to sin. We simply do not assume that this bondage makes one morally unable to willingly humble himself and confess that enslaved condition once confronted by God. (Notice I said “willingly” as I almost always do in these discussion, which will be important later).
In this follow up article Marc continues to frame our point of contention in such way that suggests one of us is not accepting the notion that we are “sin-slaves,” but of course both of us affirm the biblical teaching that we are in bondage to sin. We disagree over what that entails. Marc presumes that this bondage to sin entails a moral incapacity to willingly humble one’s self and confess that bondage from birth even in light of God’s gracious provisions and appeals. My analogy of being a “sinaholic” and relating that to the bondage of an alcoholic to drinking was to illustrate that slavery, not denounce it. Marc’s title erroneously frames the real point of our contention. It’s not EITHER/OR but BOTH/AND so, the title should read, both sinaholics and sin-slaves, not either sinaholics or sin-slaves. Certainly Marc isn’t suggesting sinful humans are not sinaholics, is he?
Marc begins with a demonstrably false assertion:
Dr. Flowers merely gave disapproval of my view and offered no positive argument from the Scriptures for his own view. It is one thing to cite a verse here and there, and use these as pretexts for a presupposed theological critique. It is quite another to walk through a didactic passage of Scripture to demonstrate biblical harmony with your own theological system.
I have dedicated my dissertation, a book, and now an entire podcast and blog to making a positive biblical case for Traditionalism, so clearly this is just false. Even if we only consider the one article Marc is rebutting, I referenced a half dozen passages, expounded upon two other passages in order to establish our view of human responsibility, and linked to two other articles that unpack dozens of other passages to further establish our soteriological perspective. Did Marc’s original article even cite one verse to establish the assertion that everyone is born morally incapable to want anything other than to reject God’s offers because God decreed it to be this way? I never saw that verse.
Calvinists are the ones asserting that bondage to sin equals a moral inability to willingly confess that condition even after being confronted by God, so the burden in on them to establish that assertion. If I need to restate that in a more “positive” way, it might look like this:
“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” -Jesus
That statement certainly implies that it is the sinner’s responsibility to humble himself in response to Christ’s appeal. To suggest otherwise is an assertion that must be established not assumed. (NOTE: When you read “responsibility” we mean “ability-to-respond” willingly).
That said, I wanted to take just a moment to address what I believe to be Dr. Flowers’ fundamental error. I do not presume that I will change Dr. Flowers’ mind on this matter (though one can certainly hope), but I sincerely pray that this may serve as an opportunity for consideration among those who might follow his ministry.
So, Marc believes I have lost my libertarian freedom to change my soteriological views, but maybe my followers have not? I am either rightly defending the glory of God, or God has decreed that I would be wrong for the praise of His glory. If Marc applies his systematic consistently, then he would recognize that all our beliefs on this issue (and every other issue for that matter) are up to God, not us. Marc continues,
Dr. Flowers repeatedly affirmed his belief that fallen humanity is enslaved to sin. The biblical concept of sin-slavery is well attested in the Scriptures and easily understood from a passage like Romans 6:16-22. There the Apostle Paul explains sin-slavery and gives the reader hope for belonging to a new and better Master.
It is good to know that despite the misleading title, Marc does recognize that I do affirm man’s bondage to sin. He continues,
However, I shall return to the passage I used in my theological essay to address Dr. Flowers’ error. I cited and explained Ephesians 2:1-3. The Apostle Paul is here addressing Christians, but he confronts them about their former (fallen, unregenerate, sin-slave) volitional status. Rather than using the metaphor of slavery, Paul here speaks of spiritual death, but both metaphors refer to the same sin-slave status (simply compare Rom. 6:16-22 and Eph. 2:1-3).
We have addressed the idiomatic use of the word “dead” throughout scripture in THIS ARTICLE. The usage is always in reference to loved ones “lost and separated from fellowship due to rebellion” and NEVER as “the moral incapacity to willingly respond to God’s appeals to be reconciled.” The prodigal son was once lost and now found, once dead but now alive (Luke 15:24), which clearly did not mean he was once morally incapable of admitting his wrong doing, but simply that he was “a foreigner” who was “separated by his rebellion.” The burden is on the Calvinist to find just one passages that explains spiritual deadness to mean a lost of moral capacity to willingly come even when called by God Himself.
Marc goes on to establish more about the sinner’s passions and desires in the scriptures, all of which I would likewise affirm. It is at this point that Marc hones in to what he believes defines my error,
Therefore, according to Scripture, fallen man is not in bondage unwillingly, but he gladly wears his chains and even pursues heavier and lengthier ones. This, in my view, is Dr. Flowers’ error. He simply does not understand or does not allow for the biblical concept of willful slavery to sin.
Nothing I said about Marc’s view even remotely suggests that mankind was not willful in their disobedience. This is why I almost always include the term “willingly” so as to avoid the all too common refrain, “He is able but not willing.” The problem with Calvinism is that they believe mankind is born unable to be willing because God decreed it to be that way. Thus, individuals have absolutely no control over there innate desire to hate and reject God’s appeals. This issue is expounded upon more HERE. Marc continues,
Dr. Flowers said, “There is nothing about being in slavery that makes one incapable of recognizing their chains and accepting God’s help to be freed when it’s offered.”
But what if the slave does not want to accept God’s help? This would necessarily make the slave incapable of freedom; not because it is not an option, but because he does not want it.
And why doesn’t he want it? Because that was his free choice (in that he could have wanted to do otherwise)? No, on Calvinism the sinner doesn’t want God’s help because God decreed him not to want it due to the fall. Are you following? On Calvinism, God decreed that all fallen humanity would be born unable to want to be reconciled from the fall EVEN AFTER God’s provision through His son, the gospel, the scripture and His Bride! If Calvinism is correct, then those who reject God are doing so ultimately because God first rejected them, and according to Calvinist’s interpretation of Rom. 9:11, God chose to reject these people prior to their birth or their first sin. Marc continues,
Dr. Flowers said, “Marc [has] simply conflated the concept of bondage to sin (addiction) with a moral incapacity to humble oneself and confess that enslaved condition so as to receive the help that is being offered (responsibility).”
Hasn’t Dr. Flowers omitted the reality that prideful rebellion is an expression of sin? Can the arrogant narcissist humble himself? Not without contradicting the label! An arrogant sinful rebel is by definition incapable of humbling himself, precisely because he is in bondage to the sin of pride, which will not allow him to grab hold of God’s offering of help.
If on Calvinism a prideful arrogant narcissist cannot humble himself and admit his pride then they will need to establish that biblically. They will also need to openly admit that on their system this person was decreed by God to be a prideful arrogant narcissist from birth without the ability to WILLINGLY do otherwise. So, God is “offering help” to someone who He rejected before he was even born (see the Calvinistic interpretation of Rom 9:11)? And if God was really wanting to help why wouldn’t he just effectually change the sinners desire by regenerating him? What kind of help is this?
Dr. Flowers said, “Slavery to sin IS NOT EQUAL to the moral inability to confess our enslavement in response to God’s loving provision and powerful Holy Spirit inspired appeals for reconciliation.”
Here again, in my view, Dr. Flowers has not understood or is flatly denying the fact that sin-slavery is a willful bondage.
No, I understand that on Calvinism it is a willful bondage. I also understand that the individual has no control over his will within the Calvinistic framework (i.e. his will to humbly repent or not is determined by God’s will to regenerate him or not). This is why I was attempting to draw a stark distinction between the biblical teaching of man’s bondage to sin (he is a sinaholic) and the Calvinistic teaching of “Total Inability,” because they seem to equate the two as if they are one in the same.
Confession and reconciliation are the results of godly repentance and faith, but such things are utterly repugnant to the unregenerate sin-slave.
Why are such things repugnant to the unregenerate sin-slave if not “because God decreed them to be in this condition from birth due to the sin of another person?” It’s not as if the reprobate has anything to do with his innate willful hatred of God on Calvinism.
This is why the sin-slave is in desperate need of a powerful and effective Savior! I needed God to give me more than an offering of help; I needed Him to give me spiritual life, new affections, and the desire to know and love Him. This is exactly what God does for unworthy sin-slaves, and I am grateful for amazing grace.
So you needed God to undo His own decree which caused you to be born in moral bondage due to the sin of another person? Where does the Bible teach this? Notice that Marc quoted dozens of texts when speaking of our commonly held beliefs regarding man’s sinful bondage and desires, but the citation of verses just stop when he starts asserting the concept of innate moral inability. That alone should be a good indication that he is drawing from his systematic, not the Bible, to establish this perspective.
I say all of this with love for my brother, Marc. I defended the views of Calvinism for a very long time so I know where he is coming from and I know his motives are pure. We disagree but we remain cordial in our disagreement while celebrating our commonalities and unity in the faith.
15 thoughts on “Sinaholics: A Debate Over Inability”
What cripples your arguments is your double standard.
You criticize Marc’s definition of LFW because it is not worded the way you like it. But you do the same thing to Calvinists and then you say that you are giving a definition based on the implications of their system. (You say that this definition is foreign to any LFW advocate you’ve studied—I suggest reading some Anselm.)
You criticize the Founders definition of LFW and then rephrase it. But it comes out as a distinction without a difference—the same thing you accuse of Calvinists explanations!
You insist that self-determination is a mystery. Basically you are saying that man chooses his own nature which is indeed a mystery. But you are not willing to afford a similar (if not lesser) mystery to compatiblism.
“If someone has an issue with the self-determination of LFW…” This is you using the tu quoque fallacy!—which you condemn Calvinistis of using (and you use it again at the end with regard to mystery).
(Incidentally, the idea that God can create wholly independent creatures is nowhere found in scripture and is an involved and complicated theological and philosophical question that you have never addressed.)
You expect Calvinists of prove their assertions. But you assume God’s mysterious “libertarian” free will with no proof. And scripture is clear that God’s free will can not be “libertarian.”
The first sin issue is a difficult one. There is a rational and philosophical answer but you’re not going to find it from the majority of Calvinistic theologians because, just like LFW and Molinism, it is not directly discussed in the Bible—and pastors like Piper and Sproul look to scripture for explanations.
You accuse Calvinist explanations as gibberish. Well, what is more gibberish than a “libertarian nature.”
Lastly, the Free Will Theodicy is absent from scripture! It’s not the conclusion of Job nor the conclusion Jesus uses with the tower of Siloam incident.
Mike. Join the google hangout tonight and let’s discuss
I’d like to do a Google hangout sometime but I’ll need a little more notice—work and timezone issues.
For what it’s worth… here is how I’d like to respond: https://marcminter.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/not-sinaholics-sin-slaves/
I added my response above at the end of the original article, Marc. Thanks and blessings.
The main problem is the non-Calvinist understanding of Calvinistic determinism. This misunderstanding is why I don’t like the term “theistic determinism” or the accretion that compatiblism is a form of determinism—regardless of what the experts say. Does this make me an inconsistent or bad Calvinist? You be the judge.
Theologians like Piper, MacArthur and Hendryx, and even James White, stand on the shoulders of philosophical Calvinists when they talk about determinism and compatiblism. Dr. Flowers is always asking for a scholarly Calvinistic view that espouses what he calls a “moderate” or “lesser” Calvinist view—well here it is.
Here is an excerpt from Calvinist philosopher Dr. James N. Anderson:
“…one often encounters arguments like this: “Calvinists are committed to determinism, and determinism is demonstrably false and/or irrational.” When presented with such an argument, we should first ask, “What type of determinism do you mean? Are Calvinists really committed to the type of determinism you claim to be able to refute?” There’s a real possibility that the critic’s argument against Calvinism is guilty of equivocation.
Similarly, I’ve seen arguments along these lines: “Calvinists are committed to a compatibilist view of free will, but there are powerful arguments against compatibilism.” Again we should ask, “Exactly what type of compatibilism are Calvinists committed to? Do those arguments apply specifically to that type of compatibilism?” (I would also note that there are no knock-down arguments for incompatibilism and there are some formidable arguments against indeterministic views of free will — but those are topics for another time.)
… If you’re a Calvinist, the next time a fellow Christian accuses you of being a ‘determinist’ (as though that were a dirty word) you can reply, “Sure, I’m a determinist — and there’s a good chance you are too. So the question is: Which types of determinists are we? Once we figure that out, the next question we should ask is: Which types of determinism are consistent with the teachings of the Bible?””
Here are three links to papers by Calvinists who admit to determinism but define determinism in a way that is NOT how the average Traditionalist or Arminian or Dr. Flowers defines determinism.
Dr. James N. Anderson
Dr. Flowers said in a recent podcast (and often says) that popular Calvinists only address the Arminian simple foreknowledge view and ignore the more in-depth view of corporate election. But he never explains why simple foreknowledge is deficient in comparison. I find this curious because the Traditionalist view of divine foreknowledge seems to agree that God knows but does not determine. I bring this up because I’ve accused non-Calvinists of not understanding the real issue of foreknowledge and these articles will make that clear.
Mike, thank you for sending me these links. I’ve only had time to look over Anderson’s article thus far and here are my initial thoughts. It seems to me that he has just redefined some of the philosophical terms to make the idea of “determinism” more mainstream and acceptable (i.e. we are all determinists in some sense of the word). Not all philosophical scholars have framed or defined these issues in this manner (it’s the first I’ve heard of it, but then again I’m not a Philosopher so that doesn’t mean a lot). What I do know is that what Anderson described as ‘non-causal divine determinism’ and ‘passive divine determinism;’ scholars like William Lane Craig flat out call ‘indeterminism.’
Anderson asserts that Jonathan Edward’s views (being popularized by the likes of Piper and other many other like-minded mainstream Calvinists today) promoted a ‘logical determinism’ and wasn’t “your average run-of-the-mill Calvinist.” Anderson seems to want to paint Edwards as “idiosyncratic” in his views and not mainstream, which may have been true in his day (I have no idea). What I do know is that Edwards views are promoted quite broadly today by MANY more Calvinists than what men like Anderson are influencing. In other words, Edward’s Calvinism is more mainstream today that Anderson’s Calvinism whether he (or you) like it or not.
Anderson goes on to affirm that “mainstream Calvinism represents some version of causal divine determinism,” which he defines by a list of things it doesn’t affirm. That list of negations alone tells us nothing more than what they do not affirm (which we likewise would not affirm). In other words, by Anderson’s definition we all could fit under his broadly defined umbrella. At least Hendryx gets specific enough to know what he actually believes divine determinism looks like. Anderson remains vague enough to avoid any critique (much like James White), which serves well for those subject to scrutiny and cross examination because their position is like jello which can never be pinned down. Anderson just lists things the Calvinist can reject so as to avoid falling into all the obvious logical contradictions. How can we judge whether or not Anderson’s actual positive claims are consistent with his denials unless he gets specific about those positive claims? If causal divine determinism does not entail any of the claims in Anderson’s list then I would suspect EVERY indeterminist would fit under that broad umbrella. In other words, it really says nothing about what makes his view (Calvinism/Causal divine determinism) different from the rest…not really.
What can I say? I sympathize—I know it is complicated and confusing—that’s why I argue with my fellow Calvinists to stay away from using the term “determinism” and to try and be specific with their definitions. But free will and causation are difficult concepts that are not defined in scripture.
Now you can simply say I don’t like Anderson’s mumbo-jumbo and go for the Hendryx low hanging fruit but then you’re just doing exactly what you wailed against R.C. Sproul doing with regard to election! And to chide Anderson for the list of negations when most of the Traditionalist-Arminian argument is based on NOT being Calvinistic is rather one-sided. And with regard to “jello,” well, just ask a non-Cal about if Jesus could sin or if we will be able to sin in heaven and then talk about “jello.” I read Braxton Hunters take on sin in heaven and I would consider his view mumbo-jumbo. Also, consider that most of the non-Cal, LFW philosophers are Molinists—as Johnathan Pritchett says, “gibberish!”
Also, I’ve read Edwards, and specifically his stuff on the will. He has some good things to say but he is verbose, repetitive and sometime just “out there in the clouds.” But so were his opponents!
Here are are two of what I conceded the best books on philosophical Calvinism:
One day I would like to just put the debate aside and just assume LFW and then see if I could get rational and consistent answers to questions without reference to Calvinism.
Read the other articles, maybe there will be something less fuzzy to hang your hat on.
The existing factor which over rules both sides of these religious combatants proving both to be wrong is “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13
“Unaffected? I do not know of any Traditionalist or Arminian who would say that man’s will is unaffected by the fall. That would be tantamount to saying that the alcoholic was unaffected by his addiction to alcohol. ”
But of course the important focus of this analogy would be whether or not Adam’s “Fallen” will somehow affected his progeny’s will through some genetic defect that shows up at birth Are the alcoholic’s CHILDREN now affected in their wills because of the father’s alcoholism affected HIS will? Just as every child who is born after Adam had their “will” supposedly affected by Adam’s Fallen will? Did the alcoholic necessarily pass down his alcoholic enslavement to his children as supposedly Adam passed down his affected will to his children like some genetic injury? No. Lots of children of alcoholics aren’t alcoholics. I don’t see a passing down (genetically or otherwise) of “fallen wills” anywhere in the biblical text. Where is that ever written in Scripture? It’s not. It’s just a bad presupposition that Original Sin adherents have imposed upon the text.
I think Original Sin proponents have made the grand assumption that because we sin, it must be somehow genetic or an inevitable result of Adam having sinned. Why not consider instead the possibility that sinful wills don’t get passed down genetically from one parent to another, but there now exists more sinful role models to learn sin from. Every child is born into a world of sinners who are now teaching children what sin is by being examples themselves of sinful behavior. No child’s will is mysteriously and genetically made to be a sinner because of something Adam did, or even their own parents. Children LEARN from hearing and observing their surroundings. You raise a child on an island by itself without any other individual, and that child may learn to eventually sin on its own, but I’ll bet you $100M that child won’t sin for a very long time because there is no one to teach that child sinful behavior. By contrast, you put a child in the middle of any grown up human contact, and that child has instant teachers on sinful behavior. Calvinist obviously err with the Total Inability conflation, but so too do non-Calvinists who are still holding on to this Augustinian invention of Original Sin.
Your example is some what strange. How would a child be raised alone on an island? I guess by some computer automated system? Isn’t most sin directed at other people? Can you be accused of being selfish if you are the only one that exists on the island? And in order for the child to be unaffected by the outside world I assume the only thing that the child is learning from the robot is the ability to physically survive. So how would the child learn, let alone understand, morality or philosophy or religion? I’m not sure you have really thought through this analogy.
I think what you are trying to say is that we are born as blank slates and that our natures are determined by our up bringing—and also, our environment and culture and our personal experiences with our people, etc. And if all these are determinative of our behaviour when does true libertarian free will enter the picture?
My father was an alcoholic. Because of that, I never new him. I am 70 years old now. I have never taken a drink of any alcoholic beverage…never. I could have but I chose not to. I chose freely that my children would not be deprived of their father. I chose freely.
Hello Ron and Welcome
Very nice testimony!
Thank you for sharing that!
And isn’t it wonderful that God has granted humans the function be able to choose between TRUE and FALSE. This is why Jesus said “You shall know the TRUTH and the TRUTH will set you Free”.
If the human brain were not “MERELY” permitted to determine TRUE from FALSE – Jesus’ statement would be DOUBLE-SPEAK.
Its so unfortunate that anyone would unwittingly turn John Calvin’s doctrine into a 2nd master.
He puts himself in the position of compromising Jesus as his master.
In order to cleave to his master (the doctrine).
Making John Calvin’s doctrine one’s master – makes one blind
And it then becomes a ditch which the blind fall into.