The following, reproduced with permission, is a section of an article written by Braxton Hunter in the Spring 2013 edition of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry entitled “Commentary on Article 8: The Free Will of Man”. “Article 8” refers to the Baptism Faith and Message Statement of 2000.
A Soft-Libertarian Model of Soteriology
If a position that is anything like what Traditionalists have in mind is to be adopted, then it seems needful that a libertarian soteriological explanation be given. Nevertheless, what follows is but one explanation that might be accepted by Traditionalists. As previously mentioned, Southern Baptists who have in the past been described as “non-Calvinists” have understood salvation in a few varying ways which neither violate orthodoxy nor depart from soft-libertarianism. With this disclaimer in mind, I will begin with a consideration of the sovereignty of God.
God’s sovereignty necessitates His power, ability and freedom to act authoritatively with
respect to the created order. It does not mean that he is incapable of creating free agents in that created order. Indeed, His glory shines all the more evidently in that, via his omniscience, he is able to instantiate a universe of free agents while ensuring that ultimate victory is certain. The Creator would only lack sovereignty if it were the case that He found himself unable to superintend or affect His creation. God, however, is both aware of all temporal events and able to affect them. Neither open-theism nor lack of sovereignty holds. Furthermore, this sovereignty implies, for both Calvinists and Traditionalists, that the salvation of the believer is in no way meritorious.
Despite man’s soft-libertarian free will, he is in no way deserving of praise for accepting the gift of grace. Even if one rebuts that the acceptance of the gift of salvation itself is, in some way, an intrinsically admirable work on the part of the new believer, Traditionalists are prepared to offer a response that seems philosophically favorable.
Because Scripture teaches that grace is of God (Ephesians 2:8), and that God is not responsible for human sin (Luke 17:1,2), a model is necessary that would satisfy both of these propositions. Typically, Calvinists are criticized for implicating God as the source of evil, while non-Calvinists are accused of teaching that man merits his own salvation. Thus, a soteriological view must be located that would plausibly handle these matters.
In his work, Salvation and Sovereignty, Kenneth Keathley argues for what is known as an
“ambulatory model of overcoming grace.” Keathley writes, “If you believe, it is because (and only because) the Holy Spirit brought you to faith. If you do not believe, it is only because you resisted. The only thing you are able to ‘do’ is negative.”10 In other words, man is not able to achieve a work of grace for himself, however, he is free to resist God’s grace. The explanatory power of the model should be apparent. On this view, man cannot be praised, since he did not bring about the grace he has experienced, but he is at fault if he denies the grace of God by exercising his freedom to that end. This view represents soft-libertarianism in the truest sense. These two propositions make for an understanding of divine sovereignty and creaturely freedom wherein God alone is glorified in salvation, and man alone is responsible in condemnation. The case is made even more apparent if one accepts that God’s grace is so great that he chose to create a world in which those who freely receive this gift would be saved.
Soft-Libertarianism and the Baptist Faith and Message
The Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) contains two articles that come to bear directly on the matter under discussion. Article 3 (which explains the Southern Baptist view of the doctrine of man) asserts, “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image.” Naturally, this is uncontroversial. However, it is vital for understanding the will of man. That man is created in the image of God is consistent with soft-libertarianism in that the latter would require that freedom is a gift from God and a similarity that individuals share with Him. The article goes on to explain,
In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.
Again, no conflict exists. It certainly counts in favor of soft-libertarianism that the BFM states that Adam had the attribute of freedom. By this we may assume some form of libertarianism since man was not yet affected by sin. Naturally, though, the point of dispute among Southern Baptists is the phrase, “…his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” Happily, believers who advocate a soft-libertarian position find no difficulty with this. We agree that man is influenced by his sinful environment and nature. The caveat, which is not ruled out by the article, is that this results in a hindered will, but not a will of only determined desires. Therefore, Traditionalists can gladly affirm Article 3.
The same is true for Article 5 which speaks to “God’s Purpose of Grace.” Article 5 begins with the claim, “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.” Naturally, Calvinists and Traditionalists are in disagreement regarding how, when and for whom these events become a reality. The statement, however, in no way excludes a libertarian perspective. Indeed, the following phrase avers, “It is consistent with the free agency of man…” Even if some ambiguity surrounds what is meant by “free” in this passage, when interpreted according to its use in Article 3, libertarianism emerges. Either way, a libertarian position is no doubt consistent with the article. Lastly, since Traditionalist soft libertarians affirm God’s sovereignty and the concept of the eternal security of the believer, the rest of the article appropriately articulates a view that we celebrate.
41 thoughts on “Soft-Libertarian Soteriology – Dr. Braxton Hunter”
So this is the T and P of TULIP? Too-dead to do anything (T) and stays in once in (P).
But not unconditionally elected (unless everyone is included), so no U.
Certainly not Limited Atonement (L)
And certainly not irresistible….since the whole point is man can say no (so, no I).
Did I get the gist of this?
I’m not sure FOH.
Firstly, if one holds (as William Lane Craig and others currently do) that the substratum/foundation/Corner-Stone of the house of Calvinism is Universal Divine Causal Determinism.
And everything else built upon that foundation is based upon that blueprint, of Determinism.
Then the TULIP is really nothing more than doctrinal window dressing, paint and shingles, fastened to the sides of the house.
The TULIP collapses without the structural members of Theological Determinism to hold it up.
So if they really hold to a form of Libertarian Free will which is mutually-exclusive to determinism then they reject Calvinism’s foundation. So they might just as well reject its window dressing along with it.
However, that doesn’t mean they don’t recognize consequences of the fall as stated in scripture.
In such case, Libertarian Free will is reduced.
But it is not mutually-exclusive (non-existent from the foundation of the world) like it is within the environment of Theological Determinism.
In-Determinism in any form whatsoever (i.e., any form of Libertarian free will) cannot exist within the environment of Theological Determinism any more than sound can exist within a perfect vacuum.
So in Calvinism’s cosmology, where Theological Determinism is the divine model of the universe from the foundation of the world and forward in time, It would be logically impossible for any creature, including Adam, to have Libertarian Free will.
Secondly, the term “Soft-Libertarianism” is mentioned in the article. Which leave “Hard-Libertarianism” undefined.
So I’m there are yet some unknowns about the position.
But it does seem like there is an intent to find middle-ground with Calvinism.
I’m just not sure (given its core and foundation is Theological Determinism) that is possible.
I may be in small company here, but I do not grasp how one would be allowed to have the free will to receive God’s proffered grace, but not the free will to ever turn from it, or be cut off after having once been grafted in.
It seems to me that the OSAS plank is what has left non-Calvinist Baptists fairly ripe for Calvinistic plucking. Minus Divine Determinism, it simply does not make a lot of logical sense. I no longer view the concept of salvation as an ‘event’, but the new birth as the beginning of an ongoing relationship that removes one from the realm of God’s wrath against those who refuse to abide with him and be conformed to the image of his Son. Like all relationships, there is always the possibility of unfaithfulness or abandonment; not on God’s part, but certainly on man’s.
It has seems to me that this desire for an irrevocable covenant which makes no demands upon us, rather than the commitment and effort essential to a faithful, loving relationship, is what has kept Calvinism in the ballgame. Baptists want their eternal security without all of its less seemly baggage. They don’t want God to drag them in, but they want him to bar the door once they have entered.
We can, without the slightest doubt, be eternally secure in God’s love and faithfulness to us, but I do not believe he holds us captive to an empty, meaningless relationship should our love for him grow cold, such as christianity has long demanded of its married believers. God made provision for divorce because it is the only reasonable response to an individual that refuses to keep his promises and uphold his end of the relationship. A permanent but dead relationship is not what God had in mind for man and wife, or for us as his children.
I agree br.d,
I was just trying to see if I understood the article.
This is one way that people understand things. They say “I am a 1-point Calvinist, 2-point” etc. Usually the connecting point for Baptists is the P that TS00 is dealing with.
I do believe in once saved always saved, and I also believe it puts us further from Calvinism rather than closer.
When the Calvinist says he believes in OSAS he is trusting in his election by the secret decree from before he was born. Then his works prove to him whether he is one of the elect.
When I say that I’m OSAS I am trusting in God’s promise to save the believer. That’s it.
I also believe that there are professing believers and real believers. We don’t know who they are but God does.
I believe the bible gives us a good indication who they might be in 1 John Chapters 1&2
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth”
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments”
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him”
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”
I love the conclusion near the end of John’s letter.
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God”
“that ye may know that ye have eternal life” – I believe God wants us to know that we have it.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life”
My conclusion is that I believe when someone throws away their Christianity they were never saved to begin with. I believe God knew they were going to throw it away, and wasn’t fooled by their false profession.
That’s my take on it.
Damon, I respect your view, and am well acquainted with many who share it. I sometimes wonder if our differences are more semantic than substantial. I was raised in a tradition that taught you could ‘lose’ your salvation simply by having unconfessed sin (i.e, that a person who died in a car accident after lusting after a pretty girl, without having a chance to repent, would go to hell) – which is not at all what I am suggesting. I remember with gratitude the moment in college when God rescued me from the deep insecurity of thinking that one misstep could doom me.
I fear I cannot ably explain how my position is not quite OSAS, but more like eternal security in what God has done for me with the caveat that were I to willfully, knowingly turn my back on him and all that he has done for me, God would not compel me against my will to remain in relationship with him. Such a thing seems so improbable, that I suppose I could be accused of feeling dangerously close to eternally secure. 🙂 I suspect we would both agree that there is no need for fear or uncertainty on the part of the believer who trusts in the goodness and faithfulness of God. We know that he is not looking for ‘perfection’ as in perfect law-keeping, but true hearts of repentance and trust. I have no doubt that God knows my heart far better than I do, and I do not fear his rejection at the slightest doubt, uncertainty or wrongful act on my part. Not sure if that makes any sense?
I don’t imagine that you or most other believers are looking for no-demand fire insurance any more than I, so the issue seems, again, more semantic than anything. I would think that most of us don’t simply desire to ‘get to heaven’, but to know and be known by our loving, merciful Father and someday be all that he designed and desires us to be.
I’m not too worried about whether or not there is a locked gate, or trying to just scrape by, because that’s not really what I desire. 🙂 (Perhaps that is what you describe as a professing, but not real, believer.) It does seem, however, in my all too fallible opinion, that OSAS is more logical with the other points of Calvinism than without them. You are also doubtless aware of the warning passages that speak of falling from grace, being cut off, etc., which appear to suggest that OSAS might deserve greater scrutiny, and might lead to a believer’s carelessness making him susceptible to the deceiver’s tactics. Most of all, I would never want to introduce doubt or fear into anyone’s walk with God, for he is absolutely faithful and trustworthy.
“I don’t imagine that you or most other believers are looking for no-demand fire insurance any more than I, so the issue seems, again, more semantic than anything. I would think that most of us don’t simply desire to ‘get to heaven’, but to know and be known by our loving, merciful Father and someday be all that he designed and desires us to be.”
I although a leaning Calvinist, not in the least afraid to admit what I believe and stand for. Really like what this brother wrote here. This is not from a theology book, or a comment from someone else. This is from an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the God who will save to the uttermost. And I cry out with Moses and David. “God show me your glory and my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.” In Christ, through the indwelling of person and presence of the Holy Spirit God will save completely and forever.
We get to experience the Love of God in Christ that nothing can separate us from, joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, and the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension.
Thanks for your take. I agree it is most likely semantic rather than substantial. I agree with you that our security is in what God has done for us. It is His promise that we can be fully assured of that’s for sure.
I have looked at different takes from scripture in regard to being cut off, falling from grace etc. It was really helpful for me recently to be able to do an assignment in bible college on this very subject.
I don’t want to take this off topic too much, especially on this site. But just briefly it was helpful for me to to understand that in Romans 11 it is talking about nations being cut off and grafted back in rather than individuals. In my understanding it is Israel that has been cut off from the olive tree and the Gentiles that have been grafted in. Or in other words God is dealing with the Gentiles now “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”, then God will deal with Israel again as a whole and will be grafted back in when all Israel repents after the rapture of the church during the tribulation.
The other passages that bend toward losing your salvation are found in Hebrews mostly. I found it helpful to study and take the context of the book into consideration. The writer of Hebrews is dealing with a very unique group. They are Jews who happen to be born in a unique time in history. I say that because what is being said to them may not apply to anyone else in a broader sense. Many were probably saved by faith under the Old Covenant, just like Abraham or even the Apostles (except Judas obviously).
So I believe that these had an opportunity to continue in their faith and to not draw back, to except Christ, or reject Christ. Even if they had this unique position where they could lose what they had, it is due to the circumstance of the time which in my opinion cannot be compared to somebody saved under the New Covenant.
A lot of ministers have used the book of Hebrews to prove that you can lose your salvation, but in my opinion they haven’t considered the context of the book and uniqueness of the transitional period it is dealing with.
It’s kind of like the Berean’s in Acts 17. They studied the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was telling them was true. Were the Berean’s saved by faith under the old covenant? I believe they were. Could they have lost their salvation if they rejected Paul’s message (the gospel). I believe they could have. But, I also believe this is unique to them only because of the time and circumstance.
I hope it makes sense. Thanks Truthseekeroo.
Damon, You offer some interesting perspectives, which I will ponder as I study these passages. I admit that I don’t embrace the fairly common perception that ‘all Israel’ refers to some future revival of the nation of Israel. (Not to open a can of worms, but I do not conflate the man-made geographic entity today known as Israel with ‘true Israel’, or even national Israel.) This interpretation seems unlikely, as I would assume that only the then-existent ‘nation of Israel’ would be affected, leaving countless others to perish in the ensuing years? Or perhaps people envision some day in which all the dead arise, and every one who has a single drop of Abrahamic blood will be saved? I am not being snarky, I simply cannot wrap my head around whatever it is that people envision when they embrace a ‘bloodline’ salvation. In all honesty, I don’t worry about it, as I do believe that God intends to save all who trust in him, whatever their nationality.
I tend to interpret the ‘all Israel shall be saved’ alongside Paul’s “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but ‘Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants.” This suggests, to me, a different meaning, as in ‘all who are true Israel (people of faith of all nations) throughout all time will indeed be saved’ in due time, proving true God’s promise to redeem all ‘Israel’ (all who ever believe).
As with other ‘who knows?’ interpretations, I seek to hold these ideas loosely, and genuinely appreciate hearing what and why people believe differently. This allows me to ponder more than my own personal insights, which I have found to be invaluable in broadening my understanding of scripture. Apart from those beliefs that besmirch the goodness and trustworthiness of God, I find room for much diversity of opinion in things beyond our full understanding. Frankly, I will be thrilled if, in some manner I cannot conceive, not only all Israel, but all men will at some future moment ‘see the light’, repent of their wickedness and embrace God’s grace savingly. That would be truly good news! But l can say without hesitation that I trust God’s perfect plan to be loving and just.
You see that’s what I like about your posts TS00.
–hold things loosely….
–dont like the things that besmirch the name of Christ.
–would be “happy” if all men came to Christ (you dont believe in universalism, but it is a pleasant thought, not a negative one).
That explains why you get so riled by the dogmatic, God-authors-all-sin, God-offers-only-to-a-very-few position of the Calvinist.
You are not alone.
Like you, my desire is to continue to grow in wisdom and maturity, and to persuade others, through life and words, how marvelous and trustworthy is the love of God.
There is a lot we could discuss around eschatology. It’s probably best we leave it though in this forum.
I will say though briefly that I can see where you are coming from and where your thoughts are, which are not in any way demeaning or anything like that, so all good on that front. I agree we don’t need a can worms opened.
My view on eschatology doesn’t believe in bloodline salvation. I believe that during the time of tribulation many will turn to Christ apart from Israel. But I cannot ignore many plain prophesies concerning Israel in the Old Testament and their future restoration.
God started the nation and he will finish with the nation just as he promised.
In my opinion it was Augustine’s ‘City of God’ book that first confused Israel with the Church. Augustine allegorized plain scripture concerning Israel in many places and read the “church” into them. This was the start of A- millennial theology (no literal reign of Christ on the throne of David for 1000 years as plainly taught in scripture). Which is the predominant view within Calvinism.
I truly believe that the mis-reading of Romans 9, 10, & 11 by the Calvinist is due to them thinking that the Church has replaced Israel all together, and that God has no future plan for Israel. But as Paul says in Romans 11 ” I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.
I believe God will fulfill what he promised to Israel, but I also believe it comes at a great cost – going through the tribulation.
I believe Israel are in unbelief as we speak, but I also believe the time is nearing when God will deal directly with them again after the Church age. And unfortunately when you read the book of Revelation it’s not going to be pretty. I also believe many will be saved during this time, whether you are a Jew or not.
Thanks again Truthseekeroo, we could start a whole new thread around eschatology but I think it’s best we leave it.
I just thank the Lord that we both believe anyone can be saved by the gospel. Praise God for that brother!
Damon, I appreciate your gentle spirit. I am pretty uncommitted to my eschatology, and as my dozen or so years under a Calvinist preacher no doubt shaped my thinking, I’m waiting for more of that to wear off before I re-examine where I stand. My pastor was off the charts post-mil, dominionist, and I strongly disagreed with that perspective; we knew where each other stood, but I did not feel the need to debate it. I only debated such things when I was sinfully certain about everything. 🙂 I shun labels and boxes, but probably lean more toward A-mil than other views. I have heard so many carefully detailed and fiercely defended descriptions that contradict one another that I simply dare not assume I can figure things out.
I have friends who land on all parts of the continuum, and I can understand many of their views without needing to buy into them. I’m fairly comfortable with a wait and see attitude at this point. I have always had strong opinions, but like to think my more contentious days are over. 🙂 (FOH can recall when I was still post-cage-stage, but I like to believe I have mellowed some.) I choose to stand strongly for the good news of God’s love and desire to redeem whosoever will believe, but am willing to leave many of the less than clear details in his hands.
I recall the anger days….. mellow is good. Eyes fixed on Jesus.
Amen brother! Whatever our eschatology is will not matter when we are all in glory together for eternity. I reckon none of us have it all worked out that’s for sure.
Truthseekeroo. After reading your reply again, I just want to confirm that I believe any Israelite since Christ can also be saved, but they have to come out from Judaism and join the church, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile but one in Christ.
Truthseekeroo said: Not to open a can of worms, but I do not conflate the man-made geographic entity today known as Israel with ‘true Israel’, or even national Israel.)Richard responds: Actually, it’s not a can of worms and is appropriate because Romans 9,10, 11 go together. You call Israel a man made geographic entity.There is no such thing as a man made nation, Israel or otherwise…Act 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; So the Jews who were persecuted around the world, culminating in the Nazi death camps, which was predicted…Deu 28:66 And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: returned with their Torah scrolls, their holy days, their nation wide Sabbath observence, Exo 31:16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
Exo 31:17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: their revival of the Hebrew language, the surge of Messianic congregations, more Jews living in Israel than in the history of that nation. So this is all a quirk of history? I doubt it…Eze 36:24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Eze 36:28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. In light of history and up to current events, there has to be a flaw in replacement theology thinking. Christians share in Israel’s Messiah, but they are not Jews. Rom 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Rom 15:27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things,…We spend so much time in Romans 9 we forget about Chapter 11 and 15. The church through history, the famous Chrysostom onward, has robbed the Jews of their heritage, transferring it over to themselves under the guise of replacement theology. I wish Luther had stopped at…the just shall live by faith…but he was also a notorious anti-Semite also. But all that has been put to rest with the return of the Jews and the formation of the nation Israel in 1948. And the Jews are still returning and will continue to go back to the land of their forefathers until God’s purpose is accomplished….Isa 11:12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. I think Augustine’s City of God had great influence in the fallacy that the church is Israel aka…replacement theology. It’s not the church vs Israel, but rather the church and Israel under one Messiah fulfilling two different roles. There will be a simultaneous individual and national conversion to Jesus in the future. Zec 13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. Rom 11:15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? We await that day.
Finally someone in the Christian world outside of these people that I can 100 percent agree with. Jeesh, I was feeling ALL ALONE and all of a sudden…
Trying to convince ANYONE here, on either side of the debate that Romans 9-11 cannot be singled out, as it is all the same subject…JEWS ONLY.
Whenever I hear the TERM, “TRUE ISRAEL”, I’m like, what, is there a FALSE ISRAEL? True Christian, True Israel, True God, and I’m like, Hey, My Truer is Truer than your Truer. I have a TRUER Israel than your TRUEST Israel, and DATS DA TRUTH!
Seriously, tho, Romans 9-11 is the CHILDREN OF JACOB, not Gentile Christians. And to see someone else besides myself acknowledge that on the BAPTIST blog, is refreshing, cuz even I get pushback from BOTH SIDES, and I have no clue what a palagian, or is it pelican, and an artisan, or is it arminian, or American…I’m confused! I think it has to do with water for some kind of beer or something, but I gotta whisper that quietly, cuz these guys can’t drink fermented fruit drinks. We’ll just keep that between us here!!
I have stated before and I think it worth repeating that while all scripture is there for our learning, not all scripture is there for our doctrine.
We need to be cautious when we (as Gentile believers) read the 4 gospels, Hebrews, James and the like. Most of the language there is kingdom related. It was Paul (along with his followers) that God sent to the Gentiles (and the children of Israel, the Northern Kingdom), and it is in his writings where we should find our doctrine. Even in the book of Romans, we have to pay close attention to the “you” and not always taking it personally. Much of the “you” in Romans (especially early on) is directed to the Jews.
As far as the OSAS argument, I can definitely see how and where some folks might lean that one can lose, or forfeit, their salvation. But I also struggle to see how one that is a born again child of God somehow becoming, again, a child of the devil. And if a believer can become “unborn again” can they ever become “born again” another time?
Look, I fully understand how a believer can become frustrated with God. Even downright angry/hateful with Him. I’ve done it (to my shame). But given the alternative of eternal damnation, I’ll take eternal bliss every time.
I couldn’t agree more. We have to pay real close attention to the word of God. The difference between a “you” or a “thee” can change the whole scope of things.
Take John chapter 3 for example. There is a message for individuals (nicodemus) “thee” but also a strong message for Israel “Ye”. Jesus is addressing both. We need these words to pick that up.
We need to be so careful. Thanks brother.
“Look, I fully understand how a believer can become frustrated with God. Even downright angry/hateful with Him. I’ve done it (to my shame). But given the alternative of eternal damnation, I’ll take eternal bliss every time.”
I would only suggest that it is a bit of a distortion to view ‘salvation’ as simply some sort of gift that one receives, like a necktie. I would assert that, on the contrary, God is offering to ‘save’ us from the inevitable destructive and deadly consequences that walking apart from him assuredly brings. It requires more than a ‘choice’, or even a simplistic ‘belief’ – it is a whole new lifestyle. God is not offering some prettily packaged ‘gift’, predicated on us adopting the correct belief system or set of behaviors. This is the false teaching that has permeated Christianity from the start. At its core, works righteousness is quid pro quo, offering God something in exchange for the ‘eternal bliss’ we think somehow exists apart from abiding in him.
What God offers us is a genuine, ongoing relationship, and this is what he has always desired to share with us. Why did Enoch escape death? Because he walked with God – not because he chose the right ‘door’ and received his prize. I sometimes think many so-called Christians are playing God Lotto, trusting that if they pick the right set of doctrines they will ‘score’ the big win! The kind of prize Paul sets before us is one that requires commitment, discipline and focused attention. An individual does not win an Olympic medal by simply choosing it; it requires deliberate, continued, disciplined choices that, after much effort, lead to the desired goal.
God assures us that our sins are atoned for, not so that we have a good doctrine to rest upon, but so that we might approach him with confidence that we will be received with love and acceptance. His desire is that we stop living self-absorbed, pleasure-seeking lives in which we exchange the good of others for our own gain. Calvinism, and much of Protestant thinking, turns the offer of a restored relationship with the living God into some kind of instant win Lotto – as long as we show up at the pearly gates with the right numbers, we will receive our prize.
God is not offering us a ‘payoff’ for picking the right numbers. Instead, he offered up his only begotten Son, so that we might believe in and seek the restoration of peace, love, beauty, wholeness, justice and everlasting life that he has made available to us. It is not without great cost, for it requires giving up all of our selfish ambition and pleasure seeking, and instead turning our focus onto serving others. If we are seeking the ‘eternal bliss’ payoff, we are making the same essential error that leads to all sin. Just as Adam and Eve chose to ‘be like God’ rather than to simply dwell with him, are we seeking a reward, rather than seeking to live in right relationship with our loving Creator?
“accept” Christ…..sorry typo.
Thanks for the article Eric! I, of course, take issue with the statement – “God, however, is both aware of all temporal events and able to affect them.” What is meant, imo, is that all temporal events will only work out one way in God’s awareness, and that God is not just able, but must make sure they only work out that one way.
Once a theology locks God’s foreknowledge before creation to be of one set future forever to only work out one way, there is no avoiding God as the author of the foreknowledge written in His mind before creation and thus the author of every sin after creation. And there is no avoiding the impossibility for contra-causal freedom to be expressed by human wills created after the dawn of the universe.
I will go on record here as agreeing with what you just posted. Even the well-intending, non-Calvinist who tries to juggle “God’s foreknowledge” with man’s freedom will find himself edging closer and closer to determinism (thus the recent “wave” of people moving over to the YRR camp).
But imo your position is the one that fits with the Personal God found in the Scripture. Of course at first this idea was called heresy (and still is) but the ETS (2003) voted that it falls withing Evangelical positions (not that this matters!) and it has not been challenged since then.
No one can really defend the idea of a “personal relationship” with a God who has immutably, unchangeably, programmed every decision/thought/ action that creature will ever have.
That’s a very insightful statement FOH.
Your statement made me realize how a “personal relationship” with the THEOS is an oxymoron in Theological Determinism.
That must be one of the reasons Calvinists create a compartment in their minds in which they make-believe their desire for the THEOS is Libertarian in nature.
Otherwise they would see themselves as the equivalent of a radio controlled car!
I’ll bet there are some RC hobbyists who really love their radio controlled cars.
So what’s wrong with Calvin’s god loving a bunch of radio controlled humans – if that’s his idea of sovereignty! :-]
FROMOVERHERE: “Even the well-intending, non-Calvinist who tries to juggle “God’s foreknowledge” with man’s freedom will find himself edging closer and closer to determinism (thus the recent “wave” of people moving over to the YRR camp).”
Speaking for myself, I find this not to be true and actually not a concern.
As long as my opinions and beliefs are inductively derived from Scripture, I will never be able to entangle what Scripture has clearly disentangled. The classic example (which no doubt you are aware of) being Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
What is actually quite concerning to me personally that in my rejection (and quite honestly disdain) of calvinism I should adopt a polarized antithetical position and pass right over truth because of it.
Thanks. I am not exactly sure what you mean, but I did understand the rejection and disdain for Calvinism part!
BRIANWAGNER “Once a theology locks God’s foreknowledge before creation to be of one set future forever to only work out one way, there is no avoiding God as the author of the foreknowledge written in His mind before creation and thus the author of every sin after creation.”
I recognize and respect the fact that you are a meticulous and rigorous thinker. However I feel quite certain that this statement represents a personal value judgment and not a logical, philosophical, or theological necessity regarding the nature of God.
One need only to note that foreknowledge, proginosko, is on the calvinist’s list of redefined words. They insist that it is synonymous with proorizo, to foreordain. They do this in recognition that true proginosko, foreknowledge, is in conflict with determinism, so they cannot let the word stand unmolested.
Thanks Tandt for your comments.
Actually however the Calvinists get to settled foreknowledge in God’s mind, it doesn’t really matter if it differs from how Arminians or Molinists got to settled foreknowledge before creation. The future becomes set in God’s mind before creation to only work out one way after creation in all three theologies.
Since no other cause agent besides God existed before creation for it to become set that way… He is by necessity the cause agent (author) for the future being set (written in His foreknowledge) to work out only that one way. Trying to introduce other cause agents before creation, like each of the three do to try to get God of the hook for the set future of sin coming into existence, seems to always fail the logic test to me.
BRIANWAGNER: “Actually however the Calvinists get to settled foreknowledge in God’s mind”
In my experience a calvinist would never conceive or refer to it as “settled foreknowledge”, which could and would allow for some/any form of free will to slip in the back door. In their minds it is pure foreordination, leaving the true meaning of foreknowledge completely effaced. That’s the whole point of their changing the definition of “foreknowledge”.
Today’s through-the-Bible reading included two verses in Proverbs 19.
Discipline your children while there is hope.
Otherwise you will ruin their lives.
Why do we discipline? So they will change directions. No discipline… they keep going. Sounds like different futures are available.
Why do we help them with homework and spend time with them? To make a difference in their lives. More time….more difference. We are literally changing the future.
No cheesy answer (“We do it because we are told to”) will do, since we are not told to help kids with homework or spend X amount of time with them.
Statistic show: broken homes lead mostly to X bad results. Fatherless homes lead mostly to Y bad results. So if you dont run out on your family it increases their possibility for a good future. The Bible tell us this (above) and logic and common sense tell us this. Different outcomes are available.
Determinism is not a way of life.
Through the Bible today I come to 2 Chron 1-3.
1:7 That night God appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
8 Solomon replied to God, “You showed great and faithful love to David, my father, and now you have made me king in his place. 9 O Lord God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! 10 Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?”
11 God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people— 12 I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!”
What are we to learn from this? Does it even remotely sound like the future was determined and immutably fixed before time began? Or…..does it sound like (implicitly state!) God is dealing with Solomon on a personal level, giving him choices, then making decisions based on his decisions? Of course!
But then determinists come along and say that man has no free will (oh scratch that)….. only free will to choose bad things.
Daily Bible reading will rinse that man-made idea away.
Determinism is not a way of life.
Daily reading comes to Proverbs 19.
21 You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
This verse and Proverbs 16:9 are often used by Calvinists to say “See, whatever happens is what God wants.”
Of course these verses actually prove the opposite (as usual!).
Both verses start with “man making plans.” Then follows the idea …. “but the Lord’s purpose” …
That “necessarily” means that man CAN have a plan/purpose and it may not be God’s.
That “necessarily” debunks the idea that all of man’s thoughts and actions are dictated/ordained by God.
The Lord will make His overall purposes prevail, despite man having his own (good or bad) plans.
Absolutely. Calvinists wrongly conflate God’s working all things together for his purposes into God determines whatsoever comes to pass. The former is clearly stated in scripture, and gives us great peace that, ultimately, however much of a mess man makes of things, God will see that his purposes for our good and for our salvation will be the ultimate outcome.
It is not true, thanks be to God, that being sovereignly in charge of his created world, requires his meticulous, deterministic control of whatsoever comes to pass. In other words, God has the amazing, incomprehensible ability to foresee the future, without controlling the yet to be made choices of genuinely human, reasoning creatures.
Like you, FOH, when I was tottering of the edge of Calvinism, and came across verse after verse like these you refer to, it seemed to me that if God is honest and straight forward – and I believe he is – then the only reason for presenting these many examples of men making choices to which God claimed to respond, was because he meant it. I have yet to learn of a reasonable explanation from a Determinist as to why God would say things that, were determinism true, could not possibly be believed.
The Calvinist must answer, ‘Did God, or did he not, bless Solomon with not only renown wisdom but incomparable wealth because he asked humbly for God’s help in overseeing his people rather than for personal gain?’ And if he did not, why did he lie? This is not a poetic passage, as when David mourned his sin and poetically suggested that he was born speaking lies and committing sin. Few people believe that scripture intends us to believe that David was uniquely able to speak upon emerging from the womb, or that he engaged in willfully improper behavior at the age of one day, making a good case for considering his words as something other than literal.
Yet passage after passage – as you so helpfully document on these threads – speak of God giving men choices, or responding to choices they have made with punishment or reward. They speak of God urging men to flee from the devil and turn from evil, or of his admittedly poetic suggestion of holding out his arms all day, which nonetheless poetically suggests that God longed for a response that never came.
After years spent pondering prooftext wars, it was the study of the narratives of scripture that led me to the conclusion that the interpretations of Calvinism could not be true. They were totally contradictory to the events of scripture that the Holy Spirit inspired men to put in writing, in order to reveal who God is, what he has done in the past and the glorious future he has made available.
Is God simply messing with us, my dear Calvinists, pretending to reward righteous behavior and to punish wickedness, when, in reality, he both determined and irresistibly brought both to pass? Why would he play such games, if you are correct in your assertions that a ruthless dictator runs his creation with an iron fist, seeing to it that only what he has decreed comes to pass. Which, of course, makes even Jesus’ words nonsensical, as he teaches his disciples to ‘pray’ for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Was he positing a false distinction? Was he just giving his disciples busy work, enjoining them to ask for what was already irrevocably set in stone?
Truly, Calvinism cannot hold up under honest, logical examination of scripture for meaning and consistency, unless God is a mocker and a deceiver. I, for one, assert that he is neither.
Many times in these threads the idea of prayer has come up. Most Calvinists take the cliche that prayer does not change God it changes us. In my in-box today was Roger Olson’s new post on this.
Good article. Thanks FOH
Today’s reading has 2 Chronicles 6-8 and Solomon’s prayer of dedication.
14 He prayed,
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth.”
Often Calvinists use this kind of biblical phrase to say, “See, there is no one like Him. He is sovereign.” Of course that is true.
But they never continue to what is often the next phrase…
” You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion.”
So many hundreds of verses in Scripture talk about God doing something for those who walk “before you in wholehearted devotion.”
Of course God places conditions all throughout the Bible. These are ignored (or extremely downplayed of metaphorically viewed) by Calvinist theology.
Another Scripture for Calvinists to ponder. Isaiah 65:12… because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not. It says God called, but they did not answer. According to Calvinism, God was playing a game with them since before time began God decided to…as Sproul so glibly states….to merely pass over them. Why was God calling them when they have been passed over?? What kind of God is this? Once again, the square peg of Calvinism, doesn’t fit into the round hole of Scripture.
I agree, Paul weaves in and out of who he is talking to, Jews or Gentiles or Gentile believers throughout the book of Romans. Proper context does affect the interpretation.
Yep, that’s what I keep telling people, too, but no one on either side wishes to hear that, as they all default to “THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JEW AND GENTILE, blah blah stuff.
But when reading the WHOLE book of Romans, you definitely see a DISTINCTION of the conversation of both, and Paul bounces back and forth between the two numerous times.
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JEW AND GENTILE, It is a true statement, but has to be contextualized. Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all… one in Christ Jesus. The “no difference” is…all one in Christ Jesus. All believers are seed of Abraham, but that is where the oneness ends. The are still Jews and Gentiles, they are not the same, male and female, they are not the same, bond and free, they are not the same. Officers and enlisted in the military etc. etc. Different roles for different people.