Chris Date’s Self-Defeating Doctrine of Transcendence

In Dr. Flowers broadcast, embedded above at the 9:00min mark, Chris Date addresses some of the objections against Calvinism. I’m hopeful that dialogue with Chris Date’s ideas and answers will prove fruitful because Date is particularly consistent in his Calvinism, cordial in his demeanor, and accurate in his representation of Non-Calvinism.

However, Chris Date has a doctrine of God’s transcendence that not only does not allow him to address our actual criticism but leads him into a self-defeating worldview. Let me show you what I mean by this: I will be transcribing his paraphrase of our objection, comment on it, and then transcribing his answer, which I think completely misses the point of the objection.

The Objection Stated

I think the most common objections that I hear to Calvinism is the notion that in our view humans are something like puppets or robots, or something like that, that we don’t have any meaningful freedom or moral responsibility if God foreordains all that takes place in time or even if He just predestines who is going to believe.

Chris Date

This is pretty good! I would add the caveat that I don’t need the analogies of puppets or robots to object to God foreordaining all that takes place in time as removing human freedom and moral responsibility. I can have any number of analogies or ways of speaking about it; as long as it ends in human beings being unable to do otherwise my objection has teeth.

The Objection Answered

There are a couple of things I think that worth noting: First, when non-Calvinists compare human beings to puppets or robots in our view, they are, first of all, using analogies that flatten out the reality of things. And here is what I mean by that: in our view, God isn’t on the same plane as us, he’s not in the same stream of time, he’s not just one in a long chain of causes and effects.

He transcends us, the relationship I’ve often compared God and creation to is to an author and his novel. You know, the entire story inside an authors novel is right there in the hands of the author, it’s not like the author is in the timeline of the story. The author has written the story and the author is not in some sort of cause-and-effect type chain; causing the characters in the story to do what they do, he’s…foreordaining…if you will, that the characters in the story do exactly that they do but if you were to ask that character “why did you do this or that?” they’re going to tell you, “because I wanted to, that was what I wanted to do, that was the decision that I thought was the best given all the factors involved”.

They wouldn’t say “I felt this inexplicable pull that caused me to do this or that” that’s not the relationship between God and creation. So, I think the problem with the [robot and puppet] analogies is that it takes this reality in which God is transcendent, human beings are imminent, and these objections flatten that relationship, and make God just another actor in time.

Chris Date

Let’s see if I can summarize this answer in a way Chris Date would agree with. He makes 3 points:

  1. God is on a different plane of existence than humanity and is, therefore, not restricted to cause-and-effect
  2. On Calvinism, human beings are like not robots or puppets, but they are like characters in a story and God is the author that foreordains (writes) their every thought and deed
  3. Human beings’ perception that their choices are real means that the analogy of a robot or a puppet is inaccurate

Did Chris Date Address the Objection?

Let’s look at the objection again and I think you’ll see he did not address it. Here is the objection as Chris Date himself stated it:

Human beings do not have meaningful freedom or moral responsibility if God foreordains all that takes in place in time

Objection to Calvinism

Do Chris Date’s three replies address this objection? I don’t see how. If these next three statements are true, then Chris Date’s answer is a series of red herrings.

I can see God as transcendent and, at the same time, the foreordination of all things removes meaningful freedom and moral responsibility.

Human beings can be like characters in a story, with God as their author, and the foreordination of all things removes meaningful freedom and moral responsibility.

Human beings can perceive their choices are real, ie. they wanted to do what they did, and still the foreordination of all things removes meaningful freedom and more responsibility.

So, Chris Date’s three answers point at something else that does not address the objection as he stated it; that’s a red herring.

Moral Intuition

I’m going to take a crack out sussing out Chris Date’s doctrine of God’s transcendence that informs his defense of Calvinism. In so doing, I hope to lay a foundation for productive dialogue moving forward because it seems to me, so far, Dr. Flowers and Chris Date are like two ships passing in the night; simply missing each other. So here it goes:

In the broadcast, from 19:39 to 22:04 Dr. Flowers, using Chris’s author analogy, explains well the criticism that the person with a magic pen irresistibly writing what the other person will do is obviously and intuitively the one morally responsible for what his character does. I encourage you to listen to the full two-and-a-half minutes.

The presumption behind this criticism, of course, is that objective moral values exist and are intuited from God. That is, since we are made in the Image of God, God gave us the intuition of objective moral values so that we would know and be able to discern right from wrong so we are without excuse for doing what is wrong (Rom 1). These objective moral values give us natural revelation that God is just and good. From our own moral experience of simply knowing, deep in our bones, intuitively, that certain things like thievery, rape, and murder are wrong we can know that God must exist, must have given us these intuitions, and His character must take that shape as well; otherwise, where did we get these ideas?

Now, Chris Date explicitly admits that God ultimately decrees the evil desires of men but, when asked if this makes God, therefore, morally responsible for the evil then says, “I don’t see any teeth in the objection”. Chris’ defense of God on this point has the unintended, and devastating, consequence of removing all rational basis for knowing and trusting in God’s good character. But let’s walk through Date’s thought and demonstrate this.

Why doesn’t he see the teeth of this objection?

God and Transcendence

Short answer? God is transcendent. Here is the long answer:

We can say, “Well gosh God caused the desire and so He’s at fault” or “the person can be excused because God is the ultimate cause of that desire” and I just do not think that is true

Chris Date

So he admits the criticism is accurate, he admits that God is ultimately causing the desire but God is not at fault because…

Going back to my analogy if an antagonist, a serial killer in a book, is tried in a trial, no one is going to say, “Oh, that person should get off the hook because the author made them do it” <laughs>, right?

Chris Date

This gave me a moment’s pause and I made a scoffing noise with my mouth as a I listened because…that’s exactly what I would say. That the serial killer is not culpable precisely because the author made him do it. But then I listened to his answer two-to-three more times and I realized…he means no one still in the novel would consider the serial killer innocent. None of the characters who still don’t realize they’re characters in a novel would consider the serial killer innocent.

You see, our criticisms of what an author (God) would have an antagonist (evil person) do have no bearing, no teeth, no ground to stand on because we’re still characters. God is still so other, so above, so transcendent, as transcendent as an author over his characters, that our qualms about God’s behavior, our questions like “Is God culpable for the evil He ordains?” are nonsensical. We might as well be asking “Is a farfignoogen a hephalump?”.

That’s why I keep referring to this transcendent relationship between God and creation because I think it nullifies a lot of these objections.

<example of Joseph’s brothers and “the evil you meant for me God meant it for good” and he makes an argument about the verb structure>…and here we have one example among many, I would argue, where it is both the human beings who intend evil and God who intends that evil…

So #1, we have to wrestle with the fact that God does foreordain evil desires in this way, but #2 I would say, often, what determines whether an act is righteous or not is the motives behind the act…both the humans and God are devising, designing, intending whatever this evil calamity that befalls Joseph.

But what is the difference? Well the text says that God’s intentions behind it were good. If we were to say that if a human being were to cause someone’s desires to be this or that there is going to sinful selfish intentions wrapped up in that. But if it’s God who’s doing it then the motives may indeed be pure and don’t, in any way, make God culpable.

Chris Date

Let’s put away for a moment the dubious claim that the moral value of an act is determined by the motives behind the act. That does not seem obviously true to me but, instead, let’s look at the real crux of Chris’s argument. Which is this: Unlike human beings, God can plan, intend, and design evil things in a morally pure way.

You may be shouting at your screen “That’s impossible!” but follow Chris Date’s thought further. He would agree with you that is impossible for human beings, but God is transcendent and so all things are possible with God, including intending evil things in a morally pure way. Including fore-ordaining all things without causing all things, ie. being outside the chain of cause effect we humans are bound to. God is transcendent. God can square that circle. Therefore, human beings’ criticisms of what He intends are fundamentally invalid.

Put another way, God is so other, so above, so transcendent that we cannot fathom His moral world. Could the characters in a novel fathom the moral world of the author?

What, Then, Does “God’s Goodness” Mean?

Fascinatingly, Chris Date goes on to say something utterly self-defeating

I’m a big believer that a big reason why God foreordains evil is that so we can emulate aspects of God’s character that we could not emulate if it hadn’t been for reality of evil and sin. If hadn’t been for the reality of evil and sin, no one could show mercy, nobody could show grace, or forgiveness.

Chris Date 30:00

This conclusion seems inescapable to me: Chris Date’s doctrine of transcendence removes any rational or moral basis for knowing what God’s character is. He emphasizes and re-emphasizes the utter otherness of God. God can do what seems morally impossible to us, God doesn’t play by our objective moral standards, God is outside of cause-and-effect, our moral intuitions have no basis in reality when contemplating the transcendent God of the universe; just as the character in a story cannot comprehend nor reach its author. But yet, now, when Chris wants to justify the reason God intends evil, all of a sudden I can emulate this God? I can know His character and even copy it? I can behave like this God?

What does God’s goodness mean when God is a Being who’s morality I cannot comprehend?

Any consideration of the goodness of God at once threatens us with the following dilemma.
On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.
On the other hand, if God’s moral judgment differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white,’ we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good,’ while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what.’ And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him.

“The Problem of Pain”, C.S. Lewis

Lewis’ argument is poignant and powerful here. His description of the problem, “On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil” seems to me exactly what Chris Date is claiming about God, that He can design evil in moral purity, something we cannot do, and that which seems evil to us. And so when Chris says that he can emulate God’s goodness, it would be more accurate and rational for Chris to say he can emulate He-Knows-Not-What.

I would be interested to hear Chris Date flesh out these presuppositions, specifically how God’s transcendence renders God outside of the rules of objective moral values.

Why does Chris Date think non-Calvinist criticisms are made invalid simply by stating that God is transcendent?

What IS God’s character and how do you know? If He can cause evil with a good motive because He’s transcendent…if God’s transcendence renders Him outside of our notions of objective moral values, what do evil and good mean in the transcendent realm and, more importantly, how could you possibly know?

63 thoughts on “Chris Date’s Self-Defeating Doctrine of Transcendence

  1. I’m not sure I buy your reductio ad absurdum.

    (1) Don’t we all agree that nobody can do otherwise than that which God foresees, in the same way that nobody can have done otherwise than what they have done? (I have never “done otherwise” and don’t know how I would even attempt to “do otherwise.”) Then, don’t we agree that God can intervene or abide as it suits him to foster or preclude certain events and decisions? Foreordination pops out of these like toast from a toaster. It doesn’t even matter what free will means here.

    (2) Don’t we all agree that we are called to emulate the character of God shown by revelation — e.g., grace and mercy and wisdom — but that we are so awful at predicting the entire consequences of our decisions, making certain actions immoral for us (because they’re above our paygrade — reckless, essentially) but not for God (because, knowing everything, it’s not reckless for him)? Isn’t this where Job takes us? Please Google “Stanrock Angelic Ladder” for an illustrated article of how this framework is crucial for moral discussion.

    I am not a Calvinist, but I do have a strong view of sovereignty, and this article’s criticism seems to come up short.

    1. Hey Stan, welcome!
      1) No, we don’t all agree on that, so the rest of your critique doesn’t really follow
      2) Yes, we are all called to emulate God’s good character but Chris Date, by arguing that God’s morality is different than ours such that He can plan evil events in a morally pure way, removes any rational basis for know what God’s good character is. That’s my criticism. Please let me know how I can make that criticism more clear.

      1. Eric,

        [1] I wrote, “Don’t we all agree that nobody can do otherwise than that which God foresees?” You replied, “No, we don’t all agree on that, so the rest of your critique doesn’t really follow.” To be clear, does this mean that you believe that someone can do otherwise than that which God foresees?

        [2] That seems to be a non sequitur, so perhaps the clarity would be to explain why you think that follows. [A] God, as a “Hare’s Archangel” per the article I referenced earlier, is morally permitted to do severe actions knowing the good that will result, whereas those same severe actions would be morally prohibited to us because of our deficiencies of intellect, knowledge, foresight, etc. [B] In these “A” situations, we’d notice a “do as I say, not as I do” dynamic, although it wouldn’t be hypocritical (because those deficiencies make the difference). This is analogous to when we use this phrase in non-hypocritical ways as parents. For example, my child’s deficiencies mean she is forbidden to use the power drill. Then she notices me use it. This may feel unfair to her, but it is not hypocritical. [C] God is not limited to expressing his character via example. He can also tell us. For example, if we notice the wicked die as a result of sin, we might assume that God’s character is equally pleased with the wicked dying vs. repenting instead. But then God can say, “Actually, I’d rather them repent — as surely as I live, I’d rather they repent.” This revelation both tells us about God’s character and reveals that the deaths of the wicked were a kind of lamentable acquiescence, in theory serving some grander interest or plan.

        Given A+B+C, it does not follow that God’s ability to foreplan such events knowing the great good that will come from them would mean we have no rational basis to know what God’s good character.

      2. Stan,

        1). “To be clear, does this mean that you believe that someone can do otherwise than that which God foresees?”

        No, it means that someone could do otherwise, and then God would foresee that otherwise thing they did. In your original comment, you did not simply affirm God’s foreknowledge, you also affirmed the inability of the agent to do otherwise. That’s what I was rejecting.

        2). “Given A+B+C, it does not follow that God’s ability to foreplan such events knowing the great good that will come from them would mean we have no rational basis to know what God’s good character.”

        This isn’t the criticism and it not the argument Chris Date made either. So you have neither Chris Date’s original argument correct nor my criticism of that argument correct. Chris did not say God “foreplans” events, but “designs/devises/plans evil in a morally pure way”. Do you see the difference?

        So it isn’t a “My parents have a privilege that I don’t and that seems unfair thing”, it’s more like a “My parent’s operate by a different sort of rational and moral laws that I cannot comprehend” so that if someone where to ask me “What are your parents like?” it would be like trying to describe the color red to a blind man.

        I’m perfectly comfortable with saying that God foreplans events without designing and planning man’s evil desires in those events. This seems utterly reasonable to me, and I have good explanations why, but Reformed-type thinkers have a hard time distinguishing between “plan” and “meticulous control”.

        I hope this helps.

      3. Stan says: “nobody can do otherwise than that which God foresees”

        “Foresees” is hugely different than a Calvinist’s “fore-ordains,” which is “God preplans everything and causes everything, and nothing different could have happened because we can do nothing to affect what happens.”

        Stan says: “It doesn’t even matter what free will means here.”

        So is there a difference between God causing us to kill someone and then punishing us for it … and us choosing (on our own) to kill someone and being punished for it? Is there a difference between God preventing us from believing in Him and then sending us to hell for not believing in Him … and us choosing (on our own) to reject Him even though we could have chosen to believe in Him, leading to an eternity in hell by our own choice? Do you see any significant difference between these contrasting ideas? Or does the difference “not matter”? Those who can see the difference will also understand why “free will” really does matter. Because without it, God is not truly just or trustworthy or good.

        And I have a very strong view of sovereignty too, but I have chosen to base my view on how God has chosen to reveal Himself in the Word, how He exercises His sovereignty as seen all throughout the Bible – by being “in control” of all things without necessarily controlling all things, by giving mankind the right to make choices within boundaries and then working our self-made choices into His plans, by deciding when to step in and when to sit back and let things happen, etc.

        But Calvinists, in my opinion, define sovereignty incorrectly, as “preplans, causes, and controls all things.” And then they box God into their definition, using it to define who He is and how He has to be/act, in order to be the kind of “sovereign” God they think He is, even though it flies in the face of so many biblical examples where God has chosen to act otherwise. Instead of basing their definition of sovereign on the way God has revealed Himself in the Word, they first determine their definition of sovereign and then reinterpret who God is and how He must be/act to fit their definition. And, oh, the damage it does to God’s character, the Gospel, the Word, and people’s faith!

      4. Kevin, you can say all you want that you are not meaning to be disrespectful, like when someone says “with all due respect” right before hand, but you are, objectively disrespectful. Apparently, you cannot argue without being disrespectful. I don’t want your sympathy, I don’t want false niceties, and I don’t want you to stop criticizing me. But I want you to stop making it about me and focus on what it is I’m saying, make an actual argument.

        Somehow, in your mountains of text, you didn’t make a single argument. All you did was suggest I’m a coward and then accuse me of believing in Open Theism or Deism, and then demand I do what you want me to do (a positive affirmation). So you impugn my character, put words in my mouth, and then change the subject, without ever making an actual counter-argument to my article. This is what you’re doing and no, saying “Blessings” afterward doesn’t change or soften that.

        So no, Kevin, this may come as a shock to you but I’m not beholden to your standards of debate or argument. Don’t take me seriously, that’s fine, you’re free to dismiss me and think me irrelevant. You’re probably right. You’re free to respond to or criticize, or ignore, who you want. See how that works? But it’s not rational argument to demand I debate the person I wrote an article about or that I solve the philosophical Problem of Evil before I criticism Calvinism. Those are special pleading made-up standards you are employing in order to criticize an article that apparently rubbed you the wrong way.

        Respond to the actual argument I made or don’t. That’s up to you.

      5. Heather, thank you for your kind words. This is an interesting point!

        “(Which is why it’s funny that you jump all over Kemp for his views and how he shares his views … when, according to Calvinism, he cannot, I say again, CANNOT DO OTHERWISE!!)”

        Yea, on the one hand, Kevin says I couldn’t do otherwise but then chastises me as if I should know better and do better. But how could I possibly?

      6. Eric, you wrote,

        “No, it means that someone could do otherwise, and then God would foresee that otherwise thing they did. In your original comment, you did not simply affirm God’s foreknowledge, you also affirmed the inability of the agent to do otherwise. That’s what I was rejecting.”

        “Otherwise” requires a referent — there’s X, and otherwise is not-X.

        Let’s say you’ll make exactly 26 decisions in your life. God foresees them all and labels them A through Z. Surely we agree that you can’t do not-A, since it’s a given that you’ll do A. Therefore you can’t do otherwise than what God foresees. However, this isn’t a big deal. Who cares that I can’t do otherwise than what God foresees? A closed future is not the horror show people think it is. An “I can do otherwise” definition of freedom doesn’t appear to make sense.

        Now, B may be similar in some qualitative respects to not-A. Perhaps your first decision is to walk north and your second decision is to walk south. This is a “qualitative otherwise” that is not a properly numerical otherwise (they have different timestamps and self-states). I can order a tuna sandwich today, regret it, and order otherwise tomorrow, but this is a sense of “doing otherwise” perfectly compatible with determinism.

        (I concede the 2nd half of our discussion, and it was likely improper for me to make a steelman alteration of Chris’s position without being super familiar with it.)

      7. Stan,

        I’m gonna throw something WILD out here, and see if merits curiosity. It seems to me, that Calvinists and reformers in general love to disuss God forseeing things, and that is a sure bet that whatever he sees, it will come to pass.

        Swell. But that’s not how I see it at all. But them Calvi dudes, and them reformer Catholics never entertains the idea that there could be MULTIPLE events being forseen for a SINGLE matter.

        In the computer programing days of old, we called that and if/then statement.

        My example would be that weird looking alien dude with the flap cap on Men in Black 3. Now, I don’t know if movies is a sin in your religion or not, unless it’s THE TEN COMANDMENTS, but, I think there are tons of IF/THEN statements based on our own behavior, and that God has NOT made a definite decision on WHICH of those POSSIBLITIES is set in stone.

        Well? What do you think? Or has God already conclude WHAT you will think? You don’t have a mind of your own? Or are you controlled…remotely?

        Ed Chapman

      8. Stan,

        My example of Men in Black 3:

        “Agent J:
        How’s is it going?

        Griffin:
        Going? How’s it going? Well, that depends. For me personally, it’s good, things are good. Unless, of course, we’re in the possible future where the muscle boy near the door gets into an argument with his girlfriend, which causes her to storm away and bump into the guy carrying the stuffed mushroom, who then dumps the tray onto those sailors on leave and a shoving match breaks out and they crash into the coffee table here. In which case, I gotta move my plate like right now.

        [J watches as everything Griffin says happens]”

        “Griffin:
        Or, if it’s the possible future, in which the pastrami sandwich I’m eating causes me gastric distress. But thankfully your friend, sir, will offer some of the antacids he carries in his right pocket. So I’ll be good, I’ll be good. Except in the case of the possible future where I have to leave in two and a half minutes, just before he has a chance to offer me the antacids. So, on the whole, I’d have to say, not good. I’m not good.

        [J gives Griffin a confused look]:”

        “Griffin:
        But that depends.

        My conclusion: The future has several possibilities, all of which God knows. But ONE of those possibilities, we choose for ourselves, and God knows the outcome of all of the possibilities, including the ones we didn’t choose.

        But I think that the words Sovereignty is getting confused with PROPHESY, somehow equating both words.

        Ed Chapman

      9. Stan
        Surely we agree that you can’t do not-A, since it’s a given that you’ll do A.

        br.d
        Hi Stan – I think the wording of this would normally be framed a little differently

        He can do A
        Or he can to NOT-A
        But he can’t do both A and NOT-A because these are mutually exclusive.

        And as Dr. Alvin Plantinga would say:
        If he did A then god would foreknow that without having to determine it in advance
        And if he did NOT A then god would foreknow that without having to determine that in advance.

        Stan
        this is a sense of “doing otherwise” perfectly compatible with determinism.

        br.d
        Peter Van Inwagen addresses this form of “do otherwise”
        Its called a hidden subjunctive in determinism.
        And the two forms of “do otherwise” are not the same thing

        In Theological Determinism:
        1) If the THEOS determines you turn left – then he has determined you to “do otherwise” than turn other than left.
        2) If the THEOS determines you turn right – then he as determined you to “do otherwise” than turn other than right.

        But notice the “do otherwise” in this case is UP TO the THEOS rather than the creature
        The THEOS in regard to a decree – had the ability to “do otherwise” by decreeing you turn left or right
        And this form of “do otherwise” is compatible with Libertarian freedom – in that the THEOS’ choice is not determined for him by external factors outside of his control. So the THEOS has “Libertarian” freedom – rather than “Compatibilist” freedom.

        But “do otherwise” for the creature is different
        The creature cannot “do otherwise” than what is infallibly decreed – at pain of falsifying the infallible decree.

        And this is why it is internationally acknowledged – that determinism inherently rules out the ability to “do otherwise” than what one *WOULD* do. Because in determinism – what one *WOULD* do is NOT UP to the creature – but rather determined by factors outside of the creature’s control.

      10. Stan, thanks for the dialogue.

        “Let’s say you’ll make exactly 26 decisions in your life. God foresees them all and labels them A through Z. Surely we agree that you can’t do not-A, since it’s a given that you’ll do A.”

        No, we cannot agree on that.

        “Therefore you can’t do otherwise than what God foresees.”

        Since your premise is not valid, your conclusion does not follow.

        “A closed future is not the horror show people think it is. An “I can do otherwise” definition of freedom doesn’t appear to make sense.”

        I don’t know what you mean by “closed future” but you haven’t shown libertarian/contra-causal freedom to be irrational. You’ve just asserted truth claims within your premises you assume to be true but have not shown your rational work to prove their truthfulness. What you did do, which God knows, does not speak to your ability to do otherwise. It’s simply not rational to assume because I did A, therefore, I could not have done not-A. That’s simply a presupposition you have that you are requesting a special pleading for; the special pleading being that you don’t want this presupposition examined. Sorry, I have to examine it. It’s simply not axiomatically true that because I did A, therefore, I could not have done not-A; you’re going to have to provide an argument for it.

        “(I concede the 2nd half of our discussion, and it was likely improper for me to make a steelman alteration of Chris’s position without being super familiar with it.)”

        Thank you. Most wouldn’t do that, I appreciate it.

    2. Does God’s foreknowledge *cause* what you will choose to do, or does God’s foreknowledge *observe* what you will choose to do? Recall from different examples in the Bible where people accessed God’s knowledge of potential future events. Take, for instance, David’s use of the ephod, where he asked God whether the people of the town would turn him over to Saul. God answered that they would, so David fled. So, did God’s knowledge *cause* what was in the people’s hearts or just reveal it? As a result, David chose to flee instead of staying. God knows all possibilities from every conceivable scenario. Does His knowledge cause all scenarios? That’s a ludicrous argument but determinists have to make it anyway, because they are trying to protect determinism.

      1. Richard,

        I’m a Christian deterministic compatibilist, but I am not a Calvinist — I think many Calvinists do a poor job of both understanding and expressing compatibilism.

        Ontologically, God is the universal cause of all things. No bit of creation is ex nihilo. As Irenaeus wrote, “The will and the energy of God is the effective and foreseeing cause of every time and place and age, and of every nature.” And Irenaeus upheld free will as much as any of the other patristics.

        Where some Calvinists err is by saying that this total ontological causality necessarily implies total teleological causality. This has them say bizarre things like, “God decreed that I lie to my boss” and “God decreed the hidden nooks within every wad of pumice.”

        My taxonomy is:

        God’s causation = The universal sense in which God made everything and upholds everything. Nothing happens and sticks without God deliberately letting it happen and stick. This is a strict corollary of his classical attributes of total power and present-omniscience. (That is, we could hypothetically say God knows zilch about the future, and this corollary would remain.) The outplaying of creation is deterministic, but only a subset of that outplaying is specially predetermined.

        God’s authorship = The things that God went out of his way to specially predetermine, or intervened to make the case. The term “decree,” I argue, should be limited to these.

        But how can this be possible? Again, it would seem impossible that only a subset of a deterministic system is specially predetermined. This comes from the error I mentioned before: “Total ontological causality necessarily implies total teleological causality.” Not only many Calvinists are guilty of this; ALL Christians were guilty of this error until very recently, with the discovery of chaos theory.

        Chaos theory shows that in deterministic systems with elegant/simple rules governing how pieces/parts move, if there is internal interaction and other kinds of nonlinear movement, the interference acts as a kind of entropy against purposes and design. Imagine a huge oil pipeline, a hundred miles long, filled with marbles. You can micromanage the positions of the starting state, but unless you perform a miracle (or pause the system, muck with it, etc.) and violate the physical rules that govern the system’s movement, you CANNOT micromanage the precise position of every marble at every timeslice. The elegant ruleset acts like handcuffs against having your way constantly. Now you can CHOOSE to intervene as you please, but the more you choose NOT to, the more you ALLOW the system to “teleologically drift.” You may have grand designs that will play out through the foreknown positions of a few of those marbles, but there’s no way to micromanage it all (without getting “inelegant”).

        This is the “guillotine” between total ontological causality and total teleological causality. By using chaos — a thing we observe all around us — God can let creation “teleologically drift” even under determinism. It is not necessary to posit contracausal creaturely wills to achieve this drift.

        Once we appreciate that bug-fix, we Christian determinists can go back to talking like Arminians. And that’s great, because although the Bible does speak monergistically sometimes (“God fashions a man for honor or dishonor”; Romans 9:21), it most often speaks synergistically (“Fashion yourself for honor instead of dishonor”; 2 Timothy 2:20-22).

        But it also enables Arminians to treat deterministic processes of nature as “teleologically adrift” as well. The craters of the moon were formed deterministically; that doesn’t mean they were specially predetermined.

      2. Hi Stan,
        From some of your comments it appears that you allow for what Calvinists call “mere” permission.
        This would be a form of permission that is NON-CAUSAL.

        In such case the THEOS is not the determiner of [X] – but “merely” permits another being to be the determiner of [X].

        That would not be a consistent form of Theological Determinism – because it would require instances in which the THEOS is not the actual determiner.

        What one has in that case is pretty much what the average Christian believes. That god EXCLUSIVELY determines some things – like the moment of your conception – and those things are thus not UP TO you. But he leaves other things undetermined – like what you will have for breakfast – and *OPEN* to you. Thereby leaving that determination UP TO you.

        In Calvinism – the THEOS cannot have epistemic “certainty” of whether [A] or [NOT A] will come to pass – without being the determiner of one or the other. And it is a LOGICAL impossibility for an event to be determined as both [A] and [NOT A] at the same time – as one mutually excludes the other.

        So the THEOS can determine [A] come to pass.
        Or he can determine [NOT A] come to pass
        But he can’t determine two things that mutually exclude each other.

        And if he “merely” permits someone else to be the determiner of [A] or [NOT A] then he is leaving that undetermined and *OPEN* for another being to be the determiner. And on Calvinism – he then cannot have epistemic “certainty” of which one will be determined.

        This is why Calvinists (who are TRUE to the doctrine) reject “mere” permission.

        But actually the vast majority of Calvinists find this is a pill that is way to hard to swallow.
        So consequently Calvinist appeals to “permission” often take the form of some kind of DOUBLE-SPEAK..

      3. Hi Stan,

        You stated:
        “And that’s great, because although the Bible does speak monergistically sometimes (“God fashions a man for honor or dishonor” Romans 9:21), it most often speaks synergistically (“Fashion yourself for honor instead of dishonor” 2 Timothy 2:20-22).”

        I would suggest that we not assume Rom.9:21 to be monergistic. The emphasis in Rom.9 is on vindicating God’s sovereign right as the Creator to do as He wills. As God, He has the right or power of the potter over the clay. But, Paul does not deal with how God exercises that power in Rom 9, in terms of whether God just arbitrarily does what He feels like, or of whether He looks to something on man’s part. Is it all just arbitrary as the Calvinists seem to read into it? Or, does God place some conditions on men? And so, because Rom.9 does not deal with those questions, I would be hesitant to assume that it is monergistic as the Calvinist seems to think. But I believe passages like Jeremiah 18:1-12; and 2 Tim. 2:20-21, support a synergistic viewpoint.

      4. Br.D.,

        In my taxonomy above, I am maintaining universal ontological causation. However, I am slicing off teleological causation as a special subset of causation in general. I pull this off using deterministic chaos, which has the function of wrecking teleological information. In this way it serves as a kind of “math trick” that a completely sovereign deity can use to let his creation drift, so that genuine “others” can emerge, with whom to foster genuine loving relationships.

        I do not call this drift non-causal; this is because I’m juggling two senses of causation and don’t want them to be mixed up. Permissive drift is non-causal in the teleological sense (because chaotic inference naturally dismantles incoming forms and spawns new ones), but it is still causal in the ontological sense.

        I reject the idea of ex nihilo thoughts and choices, and also reject the idea that meaningful senses of volition, origination, and responsibility require the idea of ex nihilo thoughts and choices. I affirm the following: My choices are strict functions of who I am at the moment of decision; who I am at the moment of decision is a strict function of prior causes, most of which are ‘myself, a second ago’; when you rewind my life, my identity unravels, eventually into a non-agent, since my present agency developed over time; the qualitative identity of my selfhood has fuzzy boundaries, but it “spans” across a number of timeslices, not just the latest timeslice that finally decided; in this “temporal span” sense, and only in this sense, are my choices self-caused.

      5. Thanks for explaining that Stan.
        Is there a particular source or school of thought which your taxonomy is derived from?
        Or is it something you’ve worked out yourself?

  2. “….I think some Calvinists’ views of God are similar to some Muslims’ views of God. The common element is nominalism/voluntarism–the belief that God has no eternal, unchanging moral character that governs his actions but that God is absolutely free to do whatever he decides to do unfettered by any moral character. The result of that, of course, is the possibility (!) that God could change his mind and decide NOT to keep his promises. Such a God is, IMHO, cannot be trusted but only feared……..

    Yes, most Calvinists deny, when pushed, that their view of God is voluntarist (i.e., that God has no eternal, unchanging moral character that governs his will). However, whenever I ask how God is loving and just in foreordaining some portion of human beings created in his own image and likeness and allegedly loved (in some sense) by him to eternal hell and consigns them there when he could save them (because salvation is unconditional except for the conditions God himself provides) they always fall back on “God is God and can do with creatures whatever pleases him.” That removes God’s character from anything knowable as moral, and implies nominalism/voluntarism.”

    – Roger Olson

  3. Chris Date wants cause & effect whenever it suits him and to reject it whenever it doesn’t. For instance, Calvinists want cause & effect to explain divine omniscience, such that Calvinists ground the basis for divine omniscience in divine determinism, i.e. cause & effect, that is, God knows it because He decreed it. But, then Calvinists want to reject cause & effect when considering divine determinism in a world with evil. When people contradict themselves in such basis constructs, they are no longer worth listening to.

  4. It’s a very cogent argument. To which I’ll add the inescapable conclusion to Chris’ reasoning. “There is no evil.” Under Calvinism, there is NO EVIL. It has been rendered meaningless. We have a very clear picture of what a world governed by such concepts wouuld look like. Ever met a radical Islamic jihandist who will kill millions for Allah? Welcome to the philosophical world Calvinism produces.

    1. Hello BELIEVER and welcome

      Good insight in connecting the dots between the two systems.
      Both have Theological Determinism as their foundational corner-stone.

      One may also notice a component called the “sacred lie” in one system
      And if one knows the underlying doctrine and can scrutinize language – one will observe something similar in the other.

  5. Wonderful Eric!

    Calvinists are just hilarious on this issue!

    Firstly:
    When the Calvinist seeks to explain the mechanics of any particular aspect of his system, he invariably appeals to human analogies. But then when his system of TRUE-ONE-MINUTE-FALSE-THE-NEXT doctrines – becomes a little too apparent, all of a sudden human analogies are not allowed. This is simply changing the rules during the game. When the Calvinist gets up to bat, he gets endless swings – but you only get 3.

    Secondly:
    The Calvinist argument to “not FLATTEN OUT the reality of things” is just an IMAGINARY escape route from the same exact reality a Calvinist relies on for everything else in his life.

    Jesus teaches – Let your communication be YEA or NAY (TRUE or FALSE) for anything else comes of evil.

    The doctrine clearly stipulates that Calvin’s god infallibly decrees “Whatsoever comes to pass” – which obviously includes a Calvinist’s perception of reality. So if a Calvinist has the perception of being a “Vessel of Honor” when the Divine Potter has infallibly decreed the opposite – then it LOGICALLY FOLLOWS – Calvin’s god has given that Calvinist a FALSE perception of reality.

    And if Calvin’s god decrees a Calvinist do [X] – and that Calvinist’s perception is that he is “free” to “Do Otherwise” – then Calvin’s god has determined that brain with yet another FALSE perception of reality.

    Thirdly:
    On the AUTHOR OF A NOVEL escape clause.
    How is this not a human analogy?

    Three obvious problems:
    1) For an OMNIPOTENT being, actions such as human sins and evils are not necessary for the sake of the story or its outcome. Sins and evils as a MEANS TO AN END are only necessary, if options for achieving those ENDS are limited. And an OMNIPOTENT being has no such limitations.

    2) The human novelist is not culpable for the actions of his imagined characters – precisely because those characters DO NOT EXIST AS REAL.

    3) If a human with total control over another human (such as a parent over a young child) were to CAUSE that child to commit a crime, then the parent would not only be morally culpable, but culpable at minimum as an accessory to the crime.

    Fourthly:
    Christ Date
    -quote
    “the person can be excused because God is the ultimate cause of that desire” and I just do not think that is true”

    And how many human desires decreed at the foundation of the world to infallibly come to pass are UP TO humans?
    And how many of Christ Date’s thoughts – decreed at the foundation of the world to infallibly come to pass – are UP TO Chris Date?

    BOTTOM LINE:
    The Calvinist has an interesting belief system which he gallantly seeks to defend – and at the same time constantly seeks to escape!

    I’d say one could not write a more interesting novel! :-]

  6. Excellent post and comments. Calvinists really only have two possibilities :
    1) Admit that God is evil (is the sole author, cause etc. of evil)
    2) Assert that evil is not evil when God causes it

    Very few would admit the first, so the Calvinist is left performing mental, philosophical and moral gymnastics trying to invent a scenario under which any being – human or divine – can desire, ordain, cause or do evil without being evil.

    Note the only logical and consistent explanation for the existence of evil, without asserting that God desires evil to exist (God is evil), is that he chose to create genuinely free beings, necessitating the possibility, but not necessity, of evil. This is what the majority of believers through the ages have interpreted life and scripture to present.

    This option alone makes sense of scriptures constant declarations that God neither ordained, desired or even thought of the evil actions of mankind.

    The novel metaphor fails, as the characters in a novel are not real, make no choices, can speak or do nothing that is not entirely scripted, and are, indeed, solely the puppets/robots of their creator that Chris Date hopes to prove men are not.

    1. How do Calvinists explain God’s sorrow and regret at the state of man in Gen 6, seeing that it was all supposed to give Him pleasure?

      “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

      “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD”.

      Seems only one found favor in His eyes.

      1. Yep. I’m not very smart, but even I would be smart enough – were I the omniscient deity – to not make a people who I had determined to do only evil, if that was not what I wanted. And then need to wipe out nearly all living beings that I had just gone to all the trouble to create . . . This is the reality that would not let me go, and convinced me that Calvinistic determinism cannot be aligned with scripture.

      2. TSOO, You are right, passages like this just confirm how nonsensical their whole system is. And I gather that they don’t like this passage either, because it exposes everything they uphold as a lie. Let me tell you, you are plenty smart, but this stuff is never about smarts, its about about truth and integrity. Keep it up.

  7. Aidan:
    If you google what Calvinists say to your question about sorrow and regret, you will find that almost all of them start their explanation with something like, “This passages doesnt really mean what it appears to mean…..”

    Ironically…when I follow along with their idea, I do not find that they ever get to what it DOES mean. They only go on and on with “…because we know that God is not…..cannot….. etc” imposing their understanding/ definition of God on the text.

    1. FOH, isn’t that very convenient, because they certainly can’t say it was for calvi-god’s good pleasure he destroyed them.

  8. Well done, Eric. It sounds to me like Chris is just using a lot of convoluted, rambling “reasoning” to sound like he isn’t saying “Human beings do not have meaningful freedom or moral responsibility if God foreordains all that takes place in time,” when he really is saying it, with a lot more words. It’s a “Hey, look over here” approach to distract us. After all, if he denies that it’s what he’s really saying, then it must be true, right? And it also sounds to me like Chris is just trying another way of saying, “You can’t understand it anyway, so just accept what I’m telling you.”

    Also, I wonder what Chris would say if God went a step further and decided to come down here Himself and actively engage in evil. Would His “transcendence” still be an excuse then? How about the idea that He can cause evil with good motives? Would that still hold up then, if God went around raping and murdering and stealing?

    Of course, Calvinists might say, “Well, that’s impossible for God to do. He’d never actively engage in evil because He is good.” But look at Calvi-god’s handiwork: causing evil for good, causing child abuse because it glorifies him, causing people to reject him so he can send them to hell so that he can show off his justice against sin and his special love for the elect, etc. Why couldn’t a god like that also actively engage in evil, “for good” and “for his glory”? Is he so “transcendent” that Calvinists would still defend and worship a god like that? How far does Calvi-god have to go into evil before they will they wake up and see what kind of god he really is!

  9. Heather writes: “Why couldn’t a god like that also actively engage in evil, “for good” and “for his glory”?”

    ——My Response——
    So … Heather is obviously charging God as evil when God decided for Himself not to intervene during the temptation of Eve in the garden of Eden. My goodness…

    1. JT
      God decided for Himself not to intervene during the temptation of Eve

      br.d
      How is it not DOUBLE-MINDED to think an INFALLIBLE decree can be “intervened”?

      In a 100% pre-determined world – the only LOGICAL way “intervention” can occur is by building it into the pre-determined script.

      Computers – because they are 100% pre-determined – do this all the time.
      Its called a pre-programmed *SIMULATION*

      CONCLUSION:
      The only “divine intervention” that exists in Calvinism – is a pre-programmed SIMULATION of “divine intervention”

    2. JT: “Heather is obviously charging God as evil when God decided for Himself not to intervene during the temptation of Eve in the garden of Eden. My goodness…”

      Pathetic, desperate accusation, which shouldn’t even be addressed. But, no, I am not charging God of evil. I am charging “god” – small g – of evil (Calvi-god) because he decided not just to NOT INTERVENE but to actually PREPLAN and CAUSE sin. And actually, what I am asking is “Would a Calvinist be okay with their god actively engaging in evil, which is a half-step away from him preplanning and causing evil through men?” (This is why I try to use the small g or the name Calvi-god, so that it doesn’t get mixed up with the God of the Bible. Two totally different things. Except to Calvinists.)

  10. My Response :

    A God who is both determinist and compatibilist is always acting within the cadence of Scriptures. This is the God whom I believe. You call Him as small letter g and yours is what?.. maybe its the god of the LDS i guess. Your idea is just like the JW, they say that Jesus Christ is a small God. This distinguishes your god from the God of Calvinists which we recognized as the over all Supreme creator of heaven and earth: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, – the God of Jacob, Moses and Abraham. He is not accountable to anyone else. God according to you is the author of sin. I’m sure Heather’s idea did not originate from the Calvinists side. It comes out from Heather’s heart just like satan where sin originated from his heart. Sin was not a creation of God. You keep on telling that desperate accusation to the Calvinists here, but no one will believe on you.

    1. jteleosala
      A God who is both determinist and compatibilist is always acting within the cadence of Scriptures. This is the God whom I believe.

      br.d
      JT – Ravi Zacharias laments that Christians say unintelligent things because they don’t stop to think before they speak.

      Compatiblism is defined as a form of “freedom” that is “compatible” with all things being determined by antecedent factors outside of one’s control.

      If Calvin’s god is a “compatiblist” then he is not “sovereign” in the Calvinist sense.
      Compatiblist “freedom” is a severely limited form of freedom

      Calvin’s god would ONLY be “free” to be/do what antecedent factors outside of his control have determined.
      Somehow I don’t think that is what you REALLY meant when you made this last statement.

      jteleosala
      You call Him as small letter g and yours is what?..

      br.d
      So this tells us that man can create an image of what he thinks a god is.
      And yes as you say – the JWs, the Calvinists, and the non-Calvinists each have an image of what they think their god is

      jteleosala
      God according to you is the author of sin. I’m sure ‘this] idea did not originate from the Calvinists side.

      br.d
      JT – have you never read the declarations of John Calvin?

      John Calvin
      -quote
      ” It is a quite frivolous refuge to say that god otiosely permits them [sins and evils], when scripture shows Him not only willing but the *AUTHOR* of them. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God pg 176)

      John Calvin
      -quote
      “I have already shown clearly enough that god is the *AUTHOR* of all those things ”

      jteleosala
      You keep on telling that desperate accusation to the Calvinists here, but no one will believe on you.

      br.d
      This just affirms how DOUBLE-MINDED Calvinists are about what they believe.
      How much weight should one put in a DOUBLE-MINDED belief system?

      1. Or perhaps simply ignorant, which is why we post here, right? To open the eyes of those who have been deceived and manipulated, to urge the unthinking to give thought to inconsistencies or logical fallacies which they have been sold as ‘scriptural truths’.

        I am truly hopeful for those like jtel who have been simply brainwashed and programmed to accept and regurgitate the Calvinist script. God can break through those lies, if a person is open and willing to think, ponder and study that which he has perhaps simply ‘adopted’ or bought as a bill of goods.

        Keep preaching the truth of who our good, gracious, merciful, just, patient, kind and loving God is. It is those who believe this truth, and not a set of religious doctrines, who become children of God.

    2. To Jtleosala: “May the Lord be our judge and decide between us.” (1 Samuel 24:15)

      I have nothing more to say to you or about your blatantly misleading, misrepresenting accusations.

    3. JT,

      You had said:
      “Your idea is just like the JW, they say that Jesus Christ is a small God.”

      My response:

      Well, that’s no different than saying that there is ONLY ONE GOD, yet claiming that Jesus is a SEPARATE person than his Father, and that the Holy Spirit is yet another separate entity, yet, ONE God.

      You people have been selling that one for about 1800 years, not from Jesus, but from some Catholic dude that wears a dress and a dunce cap.

    4. JT,

      You had said:
      “Sin was not a creation of God. You keep on telling that desperate accusation to the Calvinists here, but no one will believe on you.”

      My question to you would be…who is the ONLY ONE who can DEFINE what sin is? God, right? WELL? God is indeed the author of sin.

      what he is NOT the author of is:

      1 Corinthians 14:33
      For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

      But wait a minute: If no one can do but what God decreed, then he’s also the god of confusion, too. Right?

      Ed Chapman

  11. Agreed he is missing the point of the objection and this is well stated;

    “”if God’s transcendence renders Him outside of our notions of objective moral values, what do evil and good mean in the transcendent realm and, more importantly, how could you possibly know?””

    Sorry but Chris Date makes no sense to me… what’s the difference between being a character in a book with your every thought, word, action written out before the foundation of the world & then yeah you have the privilege of living it out… Verses being a puppet or a preprogrammed robot? (I’m soooo grateful He didn’t create me to be Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer☹ A book has an author and he’s claiming God is both good and the author of evil too and then says we can’t understand His ways hmm what!!!

    “”” I’m a big believer that a big reason why God foreordains evil is that so we can emulate aspects of God’s character that we could not emulate if it hadn’t been for reality of evil and sin. If hadn’t been for the reality of evil and sin, no one could show mercy, nobody could show grace, or forgiveness.

    Chris Date 30:00″””

    The dualism is clear thanks for continually pointing out the clear picture!

  12. Agree with you, Reggie!

    And about Chris’s point: “I’m a big believer that a big reason why God foreordains evil is that so we can emulate aspects of God’s character that we could not emulate if it hadn’t been for reality of evil and sin. If hadn’t been for the reality of evil and sin, no one could show mercy, nobody could show grace, or forgiveness.”

    So Calvinists will say that God (their Calvi-god) causes evil just so people could emulate how He reacts to evil, acting like this is a great reason, while ignoring all the problems that come with saying that God causes evil in the first place!?!

    Should Calvinists then also emulate Calvi-god’s characteristics of punishing others for the things HE causes, and tricking people into thinking they’re going to heaven when they’re not (evanescent grace), and deceiving them by constantly saying one thing but meaning another, by pretending to extend mercy and grace and forgiveness to everyone when he’s really not, by causing them to do the things he commands them not to do (sin, reject him) while preventing them from doing the things he commands them to do (seek him and believe)?

    I fear the Calvinist who truly seeks to emulate their twisted, deceptive Calvi-god! A god who gets “glory” by causing evil, sin, unbelief and causing people to go to hell!

    1. Heather I never heard this term evanescent grace before nor have I ever looked into it. What a crazy idea and term how could anyone stand on a solid foundation wondering if they are actually saved or maybe temporarily they get to think they are’ and that is suppose to be Good news Nah that is Bad news!!! I have seen quotes on here from John Calvin that state something like that, but I guess I glossed over the term. I really appreciate your knowledge behind this fixed/methodical & unyielding systematic. Seems some are set in complete confidence this TULIP is not only true but rather superceds the gospel🤔 Reminds me of some passages but here is one of them;

      1 Corinthians 10:12 NIV — So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

    1. Hey Br.d,

      It’s all gone very quiet in your neck of the woods? Ireland has been ordered by the government to go into a near complete lockdown for the next two weeks. The streets are almost empty with only essential work being allowed to open for business. Anyone over 70 is being told to completely cocoon. The rest of us are being told to stay at home and isolate from others as much as possible. The government is trying to get ahead of the curve here by driving this thing out of the community and back into people’s homes, where it hopefully can be managed better. That seems to be the general idea, at least as far as I can tell. The death toll has been rising, but it is still relatively low here. There’s an old saying here which seems apt, “a stitch in time saves nine.” Hopefully, that will prove to be the case with these new measures in place! On top of that, the policy is to test, test, and test, just like South Korea I suppose.
      I see that the U.S. has the highest number of cases in the world right now. If there was ever a time for people to pull together, its right now. I believe it will take the efforts of all of the States, fighting together, to stop the spread of this thing. At home I thank God for our government, and for all our nurses and health workers who have put themselves on the frontline in harms way. They have their own families to protect, yet many of them are volunteers – it is truly a wonderful and incredible thing to behold.

      Keep a thought for them, but especially for the families who have suffered terrible loss due to this virus. Look after one another out there!

      1. Good thoughts Aidan – and thank you!
        Yes – this particular strain appears to be highly transferable, primarily by traveling in the air or on people’s hands.
        It essentially attacks the respiratory system and inflammation causes it to fail

        This to shall pass I’m sure, but yes, it will take a lot of people with it.
        Our thoughts an prayers go out to the world, and especially those who look to Jesus as their light and light.

        Blessings to you and yours!
        br.d

      2. Thanks Br.d. Keep posting any thoughts you might have, especially the funny ones – like yesterday!

  13. Wow! What a great discussion. I needed to find this today!

    Under the title MORAL INTUITION it’s quoted: “The presumption behind this criticism, of course, is that objective moral values exist and are intuited from God. That is, since we are made in the Image of God, God gave us the intuition of objective moral values so that we would know and be able to discern right from wrong so we are without excuse for doing what is wrong (Rom 1).”

    My (probably limited) understanding is: humans learned what was right and wrong after eating the forbidden fruit from “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”, not being created in God’s image. If this isn’t the case, the tree was not aptly named, the story false, and none of this matters.

    In fewer words: I only see evidence mankind was created without moral intuition.

    Thanks for taking the time!
    Jesse

    1. Hey Jesse, thanks for the question. I have never thought of the name of the tree in a literal sense before, it’s an interesting thought. It seems to me that taking the name of the tree to mean eating of it literally infuses mankind with moral intuition leads you to say that when Eve believed the serpet and ate the fruit and then Adam listened to his wife and ate the fruit of the single tree God said they could not eat of that they didn’t know it was wrong. It leads to the inescapable conclusion that they couldn’t know disobeying God’s single commandment in the garden was wrong until after they disobeyed God’s commandment. This seems an untenable position to me. What do you think?

      1. Eric,

        Here is what I think…The commandment to not eat of the tree is irrelevant. Completely irrelevant.

        The CONSEQUENCE from eating of that tree of KNOWLEDGE of good and evil is that they got knowledge of good and evil, and based on that knowledge, they finally figured out that they were naked, and tried to cover themselves up, because they were ashamed of being naked.

        In other words, they got knowledge of what sin is, and as Romans 7:7-9 and Romans 3:20 and the KJV of 1 John 3:4 indicate, sin is the transgression of the law, and the law is the knowledge of sin.

        Adam and Eve got that knowledge from a tree, NOT FROM GOD, but from a tree.

        In short, it was Satan that wanted them to KNOW WHAT SIN IS, not God. God wanted them to be ignorant, for as long as they were ignorant, they are innocent.

        Hence, children CANNOT go to hell, due to ignorance.

        And we read in Acts, I do believe, that ignorance is “winked” at (KVJ).

        In short, that’s my take, and I’m sticking to it!!

        Ed Chapman

      2. Hey Ed, thanks for the response! This is the part of your view that I would like to push back on: “Adam and Eve got that knowledge from a tree, NOT FROM GOD, but from a tree.”

        So, God didn’t design what would happen to human nature IF humanity chose to disobey? As in, the consequence of disobedience wasn’t “from God”? That doesn’t seem tenable to me. When I eat a nourishing apple the good nutrients it gives my body are, in a sense, from God since He designed it would be that way. Also, when I eat a Twinkie, the bad nutrients, and the effects it has on my body are also, in a sense, from God as He designed my body to be that way. Do you see what I mean?

      3. Eric,

        I’m sticking to my story, Eric, with full force.

        And I would not use the word “design”. I would use the word “weakness”, in that God made us weak. He knew that we would give into temptation by free will, all because we are weak.

        The tree of life was in the garden as well, and they never ate of that tree.

      4. Eric,

        I will challenge your push back with the following:

        Genesis 3:5
        5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

        7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;

        11 And he (GOD) said, Who told thee that thou wast naked?

      5. I’m adding the following verse to my Genesis verses:

        22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

        You see, that tree of life had a purpose. Eternal life. God blocked access to that tree with flaming swords, so that they could not obtain eternal life in a fallen state.

        But no one talks about the Tree of Life in the garden, because they think it’s metaphorical, rather than literal.

        Ed Chapman

      6. Eric,

        My example of the commandment to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil can be equated to a parent “commanding”, if you will, that a child not play with matches.

        It’s not the commandment that is important. It’s the consequences of playing with matches that is important. The parent does not want the child to get hurt, burn, or die.

        And if the child does get hurt by disobeying, you will rush that child to the hospital, and all the parent is going to worry about is the child’s well being, not about the “commandment”.

        That’s the same with the commandment to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The consequence was getting knowledge of good and evil.

        The death…not the physical death. He was gonna die anyway a physical death, all because he never ate of the tree of life. The death that they got was spiritual, but God temporarily made a way by sacrificing an animal to resume the relationship…until the next sin.

        Ed Chapman

    2. Hi Jesse and welcome

      On the human ability to know right from wrong – think about how that would be effected if Calvinism is true.
      Here you have a world in which all human perceptions are determined by an external mind.

      John Calvin
      -quote
      Whatever conceptions are formed in our minds was directed by the secret INSPIRATION of god.(Institutes)

      -quote
      Men may not even agitate anything in their deliberations but what He inspires (A Defense of the secret providence of god – PDF version pg 190)

      Since in Calvinism you are not in control of your perceptions – how are you going know if those perceptions are right or wrong?

    3. Jesse, Jesse, Jesse!!!!!

      You had said:
      “My (probably limited) understanding is: humans learned what was right and wrong after eating the forbidden fruit from “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”, not being created in God’s image. If this isn’t the case, the tree was not aptly named, the story false, and none of this matters.”

      My response:

      I’ve been saying that for a VERY long time here, regarding the tree. NO ONE on either side wants to even touch that topic with a ten foot pole.

      I don’t believe in “Original Sin”, SOLELY due to that reason alone. THANK YOU for posting that comment, regarding the tree, and the reason for the NAME of that Tree.

      Funny, too, that neither side ever discusses the OTHER tree in the garden, either. What was it’s name?

    4. Based on my last comment, as well as Jesse’s, the article states:

      “The presumption behind this criticism, of course, is that objective moral values exist and are intuited from God. That is, since we are made in the Image of God, God gave us the intuition of objective moral values so that we would know and be able to discern right from wrong so we are without excuse for doing what is wrong (Rom 1). ”

      My response:

      Obviously that is not my take of Romans 1, either. I had this discussion with rhutich some weeks ago regarding Romans 1, in that the discussion of Romans 1 is about the Jews only, for it is the Jews only who are WITHOUT excuse, and why? Because they had the law of Moses only. Gentiles were NOT THAT SMART to know anything about God, and therefore, ARE with excuse. The Jews are without excuse.

      Remember, Ignorance is “winked at” in the book of Acts (KJV). Jews were not ignorant.

      Ed Chapman

    5. And again…

      “From our own moral experience of simply knowing, deep in our bones, intuitively, that certain things like thievery, rape, and murder are wrong we can know that God must exist, must have given us these intuitions, and His character must take that shape as well; otherwise, where did we get these ideas?”

      My response:

      Romans 7:7 answers the last question from the above quote:

      Romans 7:7
      …I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

      Ed Chapman

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