Does God want all to be saved? A response to Dr. Kruger.


Dr. Kruger is the President and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). His interests in the formation of the NT canon and the early history of the church align with my interests in these areas. In a recent post on his blog (Canon Fodder), he writes about the question: does God really want all to be saved (link). It is a very short treatment, answering the question from a Reformed perspective.

By way of background, it is clear in Scripture that God’s desire is for all to be saved and none to perish (1 Tim 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; Deut 30:19; Ezek 18:23,32; 33:11).

In the Reformed view, those who will be saved and those who will perish are rooted in the unchangeable and unconditional decree (or choice) of God. It is by God’s design that some (known as the elect) are granted mercy and an efficacious, irresistible grace so that they are saved. And it is by design that others (known as the reprobate) do not receive this same mercy and grace insuring that they perish.

These ideas are captured in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is the defining document for what is taught at RTS (link).

Reformed theology as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as accepted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America as its standard of doctrine at its first General Assembly in 1789 is the system of doctrine taught in Scripture; and, therefore, it is to be learned, taught and proclaimed for the edification and government of Christian people, for the propagation of the faith and for the evangelization of the world by the power of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In chapter 3 of the WCF we learn that:

  • “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” (WCF III.3)
  • predestination unto everlasting life is “unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished.” (III.4)
  • This unchangeable decree was issued “before the foundation of the world was laid” and was unconditional made “without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance” (III.5)
  • Only the elect are”effectually called unto faith in Christ” (III.6)
  • “The rest of mankind” were passed by “for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures” (III.7)

The challenge for the Reformed theologian is explaining how God could want all to be saved, a sentiment explicitly declared in Scripture, when He in actuality chose to save only some. Particularly difficult is that every individual’s eternal fate is part of God’s unchangeable design and was set before creation. God purposely “withholds mercy” so that the reprobate will perish. This act, according to the WCF III.7, is done because it pleases Him.  Yet this seems to be the opposite of God’s expressed desire that it would please Him if none perished.

The solution, we are told by Dr. Kruger, is found in the multiple wills of God.

what [do] we mean when we say that God “wants” something.  And when we talk about what God wants we inevitably must talk about the “will” of God.  And this is a subject that requires some careful nuance.

Of the three wills of God presented, the two that are most pertinent to this topic are the 1) decretive will covering everything that God decrees will actually happen and 2) the dispositional will encompassing all that God delights in.

From these Dr. Kruger concludes:

we can see that God, from one perspective, does not “want” (dispositional will) the wicked to perish.  But, from another perspective, God has decreed that some will be saved and some will not (decretive will).

The article concludes with the illustration of a judge who must decide the fate of an accused and guilty person standing before them. The judge may not “want” to sentence the person to be punished and at the same time “want” to because he must carry out his duties as a just judge.

In this way, Kruger assumes that he has defended these two premises as understood in the Reformed view:

  • God wants all to be saved & none to perish
  • God wants only some to be saved and the rest to perish.

The multiple wills of God does not resolve the challenge presented by these premises.

Why?

First let’s look at the illustration of the judge. God is not like the human judge in Dr. Kruger’s illustration.  The human judge, in acting justly, must decide the case set before him. He does not have the right to pardon the guilty. It would be up to a governor to offer a pardon. However, God is both Judge and Governor. He has the right to justly sentence the guilty to punishment. He also has the power to offer mercy and a pardon. Unlike the judge, God as Governor could act on His desire that none perish, by offering a pardon. And, because of the death of Christ, God as Judge can still be considered just.

Now let’s look at the notion of competing desires a bit closer in the Reformed view. According to the WCF, God has two desires that are competing with each other.

  • God wants all to be saved & none to perish
  • God wants only some to be saved and the rest to perish.

It is not a contradiction to have conflicting desires. However, only one of these desires can be acted upon. God might desire that none perish, but He did not act on that desire. Instead God, according to the WCF, chose to act against that desire and planned to deliberately withhold mercy/grace so that some would perish.

God may have a “want” to save all, but He chose not to act on it. Instead, according to the Reformed view, He chose to act on the greater and stronger desire to glorify Himself and demonstrate His power.

Let’s compare that to a person with competing desires.

  • they may want to feed the poor
  • they may want to get a big screen TV

At some point this person goes out and purchases a TV instead of donating that money to feed the poor. As they sit home watching a movie the person may honestly have a desire to feed the poor, but they chose not to act on it. A competing desire won out.

In assessing this person we would say that the desire to feed the poor was simply a good intention and because he did not act on it the poor are still going hungry. What are we to make of this intention as good as it may be, if it is not acted upon?  Doesn’t God tell us that we should not just love “in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18)?

In the Reformed view God has chosen to act on the greater desire to be glorified in power rather than to act on the desire to save all. He acted on this desire by decreeing unchangeably, before creation, that only some would receive mercy. The rest would be left to perish as a demonstration of his power and justice. Each person’s fate, whether deserved or not, was set without any foreknowledge of their actions. In acting on the strongest desire, decreeing that some will perish, all that can be said of the desire to save all was that it was good intention.

And we know what they say about the road paved with good intentions.

We are all left puzzled as to why God would explicitly tell us about His good intentions if He chose to act against them.

How do other views handle this challenge?

They reject the premise that God wants only some to be saved and the rest to perish.

Non-Reformed views reject the divine determinism that is expressed in WCF III.1. In limiting the exercise of His total power and control, God has allowed people to act and respond to His grace in a resistible way.

God has repeatedly expressed His desire to save all because that is His strongest desire. He acted on this desire in providing Christ as King, Savior, and Priest for all people. His death is sufficient to cover the sins of all (1 John 2:2). Yet, not all are saved because God has also chosen to limit the expression of his power and grant freedom of choice to people. He decreed that the atoning power of Christ’s death would only be applied to those people who are in Christ (1 Cor 15:22; Eph 1:4-14; 2:13; 1 John 5:12). And only those who respond in faith will be placed in Christ (1 Cor 12:13, 27; Eph 3:6).  People are not ordained, unchangeably, before creation as either saved or unsaved. They are able to decide (through enabling grace) their eternal fate, which is foreknown by God.

64 thoughts on “Does God want all to be saved? A response to Dr. Kruger.

  1. You said:

    God has repeatedly expressed His desire to save all because that is His strongest desire. He acted on this desire in providing Christ as King, Savior, and Priest for all people. His death is sufficient to cover the sins of all (1 John 2:2). Yet, not all are saved because God has also chosen to limit the expression of his power and grant freedom of choice to people. He decreed that the atoning power of Christ’s death would only be applied to those people who are in Christ (1 Cor 15:22; Eph 1:4-14; 2:13; 1 John 5:12). And only those who respond in faith will be placed in Christ (1 Cor 12:13, 27; Eph 3:6). People are not ordained, unchangeably, before creation as either saved or unsaved. They are able to decide (through enabling grace) their eternal fate, which is foreknown by God.

    Response:

    There seems to be a contradiction here. You said God acted on his strongest desire to save all but then contradictes yourself when you say: YET GOD ALSO HAS CHOSEN TO LIMIT THE EXPRESSIIN OF HIS POWER AND GRANT FREEDOM OF CHOICE TO PEOPLE. The simple fact that he abandons his strongest desire to save all in liue of pursuing the “freedom of choice” to his people is just another way of saying: the salvation of all people was never his strongest desire. Rather, the exercise of “freedom of choice” of people was his strongest desire allowing them to perish accordingly and to overrule his desire to save them all. It is as if he chose to be at the mercy of creaturely will who did everything he could and yet failed again and again and again to save them.

    I’ve reflected a long time ago on this issue here:
    http://thessalonians516.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/2-peter-39-and-gods-will-to-save-all.html?m=1

    • Joey:

      Not sure I see a contradiction in these two premises:
      – God wants all to be saved
      – God wants people to have the freedom to accept or reject the Gospel

      The problem with the Reformed view is that God does not actually act on His desire to save all if unconditional election is true. In the non-Reformed view He does act on this desire – just not with overwhelming and irresistible force.

      God acted on the desire that all be saved/none perish by providing a way for everyone to be saved. That provision includes sending His Son to be the Savior (John 3:16), providing the conviction, illumination, and enabling through the Spirit (John 6:44; 12:32;16:8) and limiting His sovereignty to allow people the freedom to choose (Deut 30:19). The fact that not everyone takes advantage of the gift is not a failure on God’s part but on the person that rejects it (Matt 7:24-27; 23:37).

      Consider the example in the OP: imagine if the person, instead of buying the TV, took the money and bought food for the poor. However, upon handing out the food, some accepted it and gladly ate while others threw it on the ground and left. Does the rejection of the food by some of poor mean that this person did not want to feed them? Would we say that this person did not act on his/her desire that the poor be fed?

      The contradiction you propose would exist only if we add the premise:
      – God always gets everything He wants

      But I don’t see Scripture teaching this. We know that not everyone is saved even though this is what God wants (2 Peter 3:9). We also see in Scripture that His Spirit is resisted (Acts 7:51) and His will is too (Matt 23:37). In Jeremiah 18 we see a picture of God warning people that disaster looms if they will not turn away from sin. It is clear He wants them to turn to Him and repent but they do not want too.

      We know also that God hates sin and cannot approve of it yet it still occurs (Hab 1:13). We also know that evil acts take place that He did not plan (Jer 7:31; 32:35). He foreknows and permits these things, He even can take them and use them for good but they were not what He wanted or planned to occur.

      Now, to be clear that does not mean that God’s overarching plans will not come to pass. He planned & promised to send a Savior to die and rise again and nothing could stop that plan. He plans & promises to save all who are in Christ and nothing can prevent that. He plans & promises to send His Son to return and restore creation and nothing can stop that plan.

      Finally, it should also be noted that this freedom, which God bestows on people, can be limited in several ways. God can grant or remove grace as He sees fit based on a variety of factors, including how people have responded to the grace they were already given (Rom 1:18,28; also see Pharaoh (Exodus 8:15;9:12) and Jesus’ use of parables (Matt 13:12-13)). Further, while people are free to make choices, God controls the outcomes (James 4:13-16). Things don’t always goes as we want even if we are wise in making our plan.

      • You said:

        The problem with the Reformed view is that God does not actually act on His desire to save all if unconditional election is true. In the non-Reformed view He does act on this desire – JUST NOT WITH OVERWHELMING IRRESISTIBLE FORCE. (emphasis added)

        Response:

        But this just proves my point. I did not argue that in your view God did not desire all to be saved. I only pointed out that it is not the strongest desire of God to save all. Rather, in your view, God’s strongest desire is the exercise of the creature’s “freedom of choice” to the detriment of his desire to save all.

        Consider this: In the non-reformed view, God does not actually act on his desire to save all given the primacy of libertarian freewill.

        I define “actually act” as actualising a world where none perish. He can create a world where the condition of the unsaved do not exist but he chose not to actualise a world as such given his ultimate desire where libertarian freewill should exist. As you said, he deliberately limited his sovereignty when he doesn’t have to.

        Several side points:
        1. Does the rejection of the food by some of poor mean that this person did not want to feed them? Would we say that this person did not act on his/her desire that the poor be fed? — Humanly speaking, the person who gave the bread did actually desire to feed all of the poor. But this person is not sovereign or all powerful. God is. In your view, God could have created a world like Heaven but he didn’t. He limited his sovereignty, desired to save all but chooses a world where that desire will not actualise.

        2. You argued God does not always gets everything He wants. Your support:
        a. 2 Peter 2:9 –> read the article I’ve written.
        b. Acts 7:51 & Mat 23:37 –> Yes God allows sinners to resist and reject his revealed will. That doesn’t mean he can not defeat their rebellion. As an example: Paul.
        c. Jer 18 –> When God warns of disaster, it is his instrument to convict the elect for repentance. It does not mean he ultimately desired to rescue everyone yet failed to do so.
        d. Hab 1:13 –> God hates sin. He allows it in his world for now according to his plans and purposes. It doesn’t mean he desperately wants to eradicate it but could not do so.
        e. Jer 7:31, 32:35 –> these are anthropomorphic language. Just as we do not conclude that God does not know where Adam was because he asked them “Where are you?” In Eden, so we do not conclude that there are some random events that God has no knowledge of but then occured. If that were the case, God would have significant gaps in his knowledge and would not be omniscient.

        I hope you will consider your position. Read the essay I wrote. I provided several passages there of God’s full sovereignty as opposed to the view that he limits it. The term limited sovereignty is an oxymoron. You can’t be sovereign if it is limited.

        Regards,
        Joey Henry

  2. Joey:

    Thanks for the discussion. I’ll respond to some of your other points later. Right now I just wanted to point out that I did not deny foreknowledge (FK).

    In your point 2.e you wrote:
    …we do not conclude that there are some random events that God has no knowledge of but then occured. If that were the case, God would have significant gaps in his knowledge and would not be omniscient.

    I think you make this conclusion b/c you assume that FK is based on a decree.
    — 1) God decrees person p will do action X at time t
    — 2) God foreknows person p will do action X at time t based on decree (1)
    — 3) person p does action X at time t because of decree (1)

    If it were true that FK must be based on a prior decree of God then events (though they would not be random) that are not decreed would not be foreknown. However, non-Reformed views would reject premise (1) and the part of premise (2) that requires FK be based on decrees (WCF III.1).

    They would argue that FK is based not on decrees but actions.
    — 1) God foreknows person p will do action X at time t based on the act (2)
    — 2) person p does action X at time t because they chose that over not X

    For more details you can read this post:
    Free Will and FK

    • Mike,

      I am sure thousands of books have been written about FK and God’s decree. It is my intention to rehash those discussions.

      But as to your point: I only need to point out that even in your system you can’t escape the concept of God’s decree. Consider: before God created the world, person p is in his mind already. All his actions at every possible point is in his mind already. Person p has not chosen yet how he would act. But once God has chosen to actualise a world he wants, all of person p’s action is fixed because God’s choice of a particular world and his foreknowledge of this world is infallible.

      In other words once we ask the question why person p acted this way at a particluar time t when he could have done thousands of possible actions, we can only ground it on God’s particular choice of a world he wanted to actualise prior to the creation of person p and which all actualised action of person p depends on.

      Regards,
      Joey Henry

      • Joey,

        But once God has chosen to actualise a world he wants, all of person p’s action is fixed because God’s choice of a particular world and his foreknowledge of this world is infallible.

        That is the thing. FK is non-causative. God’s FK does not fix a person’s decision. A person’s decision fixes God’s FK. Their action causes what is foreknown. That is why it is called FK. The knowledge is available before it occurs.

        The challenge is: how does God FK future actions? There are some interesting ideas depending on whether one holds to an A or B theory of time, accepts that idea that future events have a truth value prior to occurring or not, and/or is willing to accept some form of Molinism. But the fact is, God does not tell us how He has FK only that He does.

        This is somewhat similar (IMO) to asking the question, how does God create ex nihlio? Science can’t test a singularity only explore it. Assuming some form of “Big Bang” it is a challenge to explain anything prior to the Planck era because there aren’t natural laws. The bottom line here is that God does not tell us how He created. Only that He spoke creation into existence.

        Again thanks for the discussion.
        Mike

  3. Joey:

    In the non-reformed view, God does not actually act on his desire to save all given the primacy of libertarian freewill. … I define “actually act” as actualising a world where none perish.

    You are correct, God could have acted on His desire to save all AND removed the LFW choice of people thus saving 100% of mankind. But He has not.

    So we are left with reconciling God’s revealed desire to save all with the reality that not all are saved. The proposal by Dr. Kruger lowers God’s desire to save all to a good intention that was not acted upon. I would instead argue that God does act on his desire to save all. However this act is constrained by His creating people with the ability to make LFW decisions.

    You then write:
    he deliberately limited his sovereignty when he doesn’t have to.

    You are correct. God could exercise His power to control all aspects of creation. He could have created people without an ability to make LFW decisions. He could have predetermined every desire and action that every person would ever have. And of course that is what the WCF teaches.

    WCF III.1 and 2 in part state:
    God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass… and he [has] not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future…

    However, the question then becomes, who/what has God saved? And how has He saved them?
    It also opens God up to the charge of being the author of evil since all the evil that does occur does so because it was decreed that it must. But that is a separate discussion.

    Calvinists generally reject the idea that with divine determinism (and irresistible grace) that the only logical conclusion is that people are essentially puppets or robots or if you prefer actors constrained by a script. They also reject the idea that people are “coerced” into believing despite the fact it only can occur when an irresistible power is applied. They fall back on the philosophical idea that determinism and “free will” are compatible. This idea redefines “free will”, removing from the definition the ability to choose otherwise. This idea is known as compatibilism.

    Danniel Dennett is the foremost advocate of compatibilism. He is an atheist who accepts naturalistic determinism rather than divine determinism. There are important differences between these forms of determinism, but if we simplify things for the purposes of our discussion we can (hopefully) agree that both types of determinists offer up the same philosophical concept to argue for a form of free will within a deterministic world. And Dennett in trying to explain this idea gives us an illustration that admits that people are really analogous to programmed robots.

    When I see “choose this day whom you will serve” I don’t presume that how each person will choose is predetermined. Rather, I see God respecting each person as a person who must make a (grace enabled) decision to follow God or reject Him.

    Here is how Arminius explains it:

    What then, you ask, what does free will do? I reply with brevity, it saves. Take away FREE WILL, and nothing will be left to be saved. Take away GRACE, and nothing will be left as the source of salvation. … God is the author of salvation. Free will is only capable of being saved. No one, except God, is able to bestow salvation; and nothing, except free will, is capable of receiving it.

    Agreeing with this sentiment I would argue that God can no more create people without LFW as He could create a square circle or draw two parallel lines that intersect. If God made a square circle we would call it a square. If he drew instersecting lines we would say that they are not parallel. And if he created people whose every desire and action were predetermined we would call them robots.

    You wrote the following regarding sovereignty:
    The term limited sovereignty is an oxymoron. You can’t be sovereign if it is limited.

    That is a presupposed definition of sovereignty. It misses the fact that we use the term “sovereign” all the time and ascribe it to human rulers knowing that their powers are limited.

    And even in the view of meticulous sovereignty (ie divine determinism), God limits Himself. After God has given an unchangeable and unconditional decree to save some and not others He is limited. Why? Because now He can no longer change this decree and save someone who was not elect. After He chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the founders of the nation of Israel through whom the Messiah would come He was no longer able to send the Messiah through another line of people.

    Thanks again for dialoguing with me on these very challenging topics. We may not agree but iron sharpens iron.

    • Mike:

      Thanks for the discussion.

      You said:
      The proposal by Dr. Kruger lowers God’s desire to save all to a good intention that was not acted upon.

      Response:
      I wonder if this would not apply to your system. You agreed already that God could have saved everyone but has chosen not to. If that be the case, his desire to save all is reduced to a good intention that he did not act upon (or chose to actualise).

      You said:
      I would instead argue that God does act on his desire to save all. However this act is constrained by His creating people with the ability to make LFW decisions.

      Response:
      Here’s the difficulty with this statement. If God acted upon his desire to save all then why isn’t everybody save? You say it is because of LFW. In that case, God has not acted upon his desire to save all because of his commitment to LFW. This is just like saying, he wanted to save all but chose not to save all because his want or desire for LFW is greater than his desire to save all.

      You said:
      Agreeing with this sentiment I would argue that God can no more create people without LFW as He could create a square circle or draw two parallel lines that intersect.

      Response:
      But he did create people who has no ability to do evil or actions contrary to goodness. Consider: Heaven. All those enjoying God there are free people (both angels and humans) although we know they will never reject God for eternity. Are we saying these people in this state are mere robots since all their actions are determined to be only for good and not for evil?

      You said:
      It misses the fact that we use the term “sovereign” all the time and ascribe it to human rulers knowing that their powers are limited.

      Response:
      I thought we are talking about God. A sovereign creature in relation to his fellow creature is limited. The nature of his sovereignty is delegated. God, however, do not have a delegated sovereignty. He is inherently sovereign over all creation. He is not limited by anything in exercising his right.

      When you said God limits his sovereignty, you are referring to his limitation of it based on the autonomous will of another being. That is not the same with God choosing Abraham and based on that choice chooses not to reneg on his promise. It is, as you say akin to God making a circle square if he reneg on his promises but at the same time claiming that he won’t.

      Iron sharpens Iron! God bless.

      Regards,
      Joey Henry

      • Joey:

        In arguing against LFW you wrote the following:

        But he did create people who has no ability to do evil or actions contrary to goodness.

        God has not created people who have no ability to do evil. Every person is a sinner.

        Consider: Heaven. All those enjoying God there are free people (both angels and humans) although we know they will never reject God for eternity. Are we saying these people in this state are mere robots since all their actions are determined to be only for good and not for evil?

        Given your view on determinism and arguing against LFW I am not sure what you mean by “free people”.

        But, if we consider heaven, then we must say that every person that will be there was not created as having no ability to do evil since they all existed as humans who were sinners.

        If we consider heaven then we must also consider that some of the angels can do evil and did do evil when they rebelled against God. We can reasonably assume that those angels that did not rebel were able to do so but chose not to.

        When you write that in heaven (or the new creation) that “all their actions are determined to be only for good”. Why must these actions be determined?

        If we look ahead to Christ’s return and restoration of creation then we have to admit that we do not have a lot of information about what that will be like. We do know that there will be no death, sorrow, or pain. Since these are all a result of sin we can conclude that there will be no sin in the new/restored creation.

        What we don’t know is why people (and angels) will not sin after this point in time.

        Some possible options:
        (1) They will not sin because they cannot sin. And they cannot sin because they have no LFW and all actions are determined by God.
        (2) They will not sin because they cannot sin. And they cannot sin, not because they have no LFW, but because they have been transformed to be like the Son who also cannot sin (1 John 3:2).
        (3) They will not sin but they could sin. They will be like the angels that chose not to rebel vs. God even though they could.

        What we do know is that we currently live in a perishable “earthly tent” made of flesh and blood (2 Cor 5:1-5; 1 Cor 15:50-53). And right now we only see things in part and as a dim reflection (1 Cor 13:12). But when Christ returns we will see clearly and know fully. And we will receive a new incorruptible body that is immortal. How these things will impact how we make decisions is unfathomable. I would be tempted to speculate something along the lines of #2, but that would be all it would be.

  4. Joey:

    When I wrote:

    God could have acted on His desire to save all AND removed the LFW choice of people thus saving 100% of mankind.

    The point of this overall comment was that God could have done this but that would have changed everything. In such a scenario He would no longer be governing people but puppets/robots/stones/actors.

    John Wesley writes this regarding God’s governance of man:
    For he created man in his own image: a spirit like himself; a spirit endued with understanding, with will, or affections, and liberty; without which, neither his understanding nor his affections could have been of any use; neither would he have been capable of either vice or virtue. e could not be a moral agent, any more than a tree or a stone. … all the manifold wisdom of God (as well as all his power and goodness) is displayed in governing man as a man; not as a stock or stone

    As we are having this discussion it is clear to me that the Calvinism/Arminian debate centers around (at least) 3 philosophical and fundamental questions.

    Can God be considered sovereign if He does not determine all choices & actions?

    Most Calvinists will answer no.
    Arminians will answer yes.

    Can people be considered people (rather than stones) responsible for their choices if they do not possess LFW but instead have all their choices & actions predetermined by God?

    Calvinists will answer yes.
    Arminians will answer no.

    Can God be freed from the charge of being the author of evil if He determines all choices & actions that occur?

    Calvinists will answer yes.
    Arminians will answer no.

    Based on these questions you conclude that “[God] can’t be sovereign if it is limited”. He not only has authority over all creation but exercises His power such that everything happens just as He planned. In a nutshell, the creation of people with LFW is impossible if we still want to maintain the idea of God’s sovereignty.

    I conclude that “limited sovereignty” is required in order to explain evil in a way that does not make God its author. And is also required for God to rule over people that are not puppets or actors playing a part in a play but capable of freely expressing love for their Creator. In a nutshell, the creation of people without LFW is impossible if we still want maintain the idea of person-hood and morale responsibility.

    • Mike,

      You said:

      The point of this overall comment was that God could have done this but that would have changed everything. In such a scenario He would no longer be governing people but puppets/robots/stones/actors.

      Response:
      I just pointed out that God could have created a world where everyone have an eschatological heavenly state. Both of us believe that in that state people do not sin. But he did not chose to effect that state when he created the world. Thus, your criticism that the divine will is reduced to good intention can be charged against your worldview. God could have but he didn’t.

      Some side discussions:
      You also said that in this state one of the possible reasons why the agent could not sin is because “they have been transformed to be like the Son who also cannot sin (1 John 3:2).” In other words God changed their very nature to be like the Son and because of that act from God, all the subsequent actions of the agent are bound by that change God performed.

      Now I have to ask you what you mean by LFW. If LFW in your worldview means the ability of the agent to act contrary to his nature then it is possible to have a world where there is no LFW yet these agents are not reduced to robots or puppets. That world is the eschatological heavenly state.

      Before we go to other issues such as whether God is the author of evil given Eternal Decree or Providence, I agree with the John Wesley quote. The reformed creeds would have a section under FREEWILL which would have no problem with Wesley. I also note Arminius also explained that the nature of the freewill of man after the fall is not libertarian but natural. Meaning it has been enslaved by his sinful nature and he can not act contrary to his nature. See: Arminius, J., Complete Works of Arminius, Volume 1, Public Disputations of Arminius, Disputation 11 (On the Free Will of Man and its Powers). In his explanation he noted that it requires Divine Grace for man to free himself from such slavery. It seems to me then affirming man has freedom is not equal to affirming LFW. Either man has natural freedom or libertarian freedom.

      Now at the heart fo this discussion is our journey together to discover how can it be that God desires the salvation of everyone yet not all are saved. You criticise the reformed view that it reduces the desire of God to good intention. I argued in these responses that your criticism can be charged against your non-reformed worldview too.

      God bless.

      Joey Henry

  5. Joey

    I just pointed out that God could have created a world where everyone have an eschatological heavenly state. Both of us believe that in that state people do not sin. But he did not chose to effect that state when he created the world. Thus, your criticism that the divine will is reduced to good intention can be charged against your worldview. God could have but he didn’t.

    You did point out that in the new creation that there will be no sin. I offered some of my thoughts on that matter. In the end both of us have to wrestle with the fact that God did not start us off in the new creation without an ability to sin. Instead He chose to place us in this world with both the capacity to sin and in which sin is a very real occurrence. Neither of us know why God chose to create the world as He did. What we do know is that God did not create people who will not sin. Everyone who will be in heaven was a person who can and did sin because they first lived in the world. Why when we are in heaven will we no longer sin is speculative. Whether God could have actually created us and placed us directly in heaven where we will not sin without first placing us in this world is also speculative. We don’t know if He could. We only know that He didn’t.

    Now I have to ask you what you mean by LFW.

    My understanding is that if God wants to govern people, they must have an ability to decide between alternatives. As A.W. Pink wrote “choice necessarily implies the refusal of one thing and the acceptance of another.” However, contra Pink I would argue that when the choice is necessarily and unchangeably determined by God such that the person could not choose other than what was decreed that this is not a free exercise of the will (ie LFW). I would add that LFW is not the ability to do anything or even the requirement that what I intended from my choice be what results from my action (as God controls the outcomes). It is the ability to choose from possible alternatives. In the ultimate decision to accept or reject Christ, it is a decison between two possible alternatives made available as real choices through the resistible yet enabling grace that God provides.

    Now at the heart fo this discussion is our journey together to discover how can it be that God desires the salvation of everyone yet not all are saved. You criticise the reformed view that it reduces the desire of God to good intention. I argued in these responses that your criticism can be charged against your non-reformed worldview too

    Here is my argument restated in its logical form:
    (1) God sovereignly chose to govern people with the ability to decide between alternatives (to do otherwise would be to control robots).
    (2) God wants all people to be saved and none to perish
    (3) God acted on this desire and made salvation possible to all people through the death of His Son.
    (4) God acted on this desire and through grace enables people so they can choose to accept or reject the offer of salvation through faith.
    Therefore the desire/want for all to be saved is not a good intention but the motivation upon which God acted.
    Further the desire/want for all to be saved does not come about, not because God did not act, but because people had the ability to decide between alternatives.

    When I responded to Dr. Kruger it was based on what Calvinism and the WCF teach that God did do in the world we now live in.
    (1) God wants all to be saved and none to perish
    (2) God wants to save only some and allow others to perish.
    (3) God acted on desire #2 and unchangeably and unconditionally decreed who would be saved (elect) and who would perish.
    (4) God acted on desire #2 and grants efficacious, irresistible grace only to the elect (see act #3) so they will accept salvation through faith.
    Therefore the desire/want for all to be saved was a good intention that was not acted upon.

    Your challenge to my argument rests on denying that premise #1 was necessary. You assert that God must have actualized a world in which God actually saves all in order for this desire to be anything more than a good intention. However you rely on a speculative world that may or may not have been possible to create when also granting people the freedom to choose.

    • Mike:

      Your challenge to my argument rests on denying that premise #1 was necessary. You assert that God must have actualized a world in which God actually saves all in order for this desire to be anything more than a good intention. However you rely on a speculative world that may or may not have been possible to create when also granting people the freedom to choose.

      Response:
      While I do not deny premise 1 (see WCF Chapter IX), you summarised my main objection well. Since your main argument is that God is incapable to create a world where none perish without turning them into robots, I simply note that that world is possible. First, I defined LFW as the ability of the agent to act contrary to his nature. Then, I pointed out a world where such condition exist namely, the eschatological heavely state. In this world, people do not act contrary to their nature but we do not call them robots in that state. They are free but their freedom is not libertarian.

      Now you said, all people in heaven at one point have LFW. I do not believe that this is taught in Scripture. Even Ariminius thinks that after the fall our will is not free. But, I think you believe that God at one point freed everyone from such bondage so that everyone has the capability to choose for or against the gospel. Granting without conceding this point, I still can posit that based on the absolute and infallible foreknowledge of God, he must have known that some would reject him even before they were created. Yet he proceded to create these people. Why would he create them knowing prior creation what their decision would be? If he desired to save all hinges on the ability to choose from the contrary and if he has foreknoledge who would choose for and against the gospel, why actualise a world full of people who reject the gospel? Why not choose to create those people who chose the gospel to populate the actual world?

      You may criticise me for positing possible worlds where LFW doesn’t exist yet people are free and not reduced to robots. You may say this is speculative and even suggest that God may not be able to create these worlds. My worry on the trajectory of your theology is your willingness to limit God on what he can do just to preserve the necessity of LFW. It is as if LFW becomes a necessary attribute that God has to create without contradicting himself. I think this is more speculative than the possible worlds I’ve suggested.

      Regards,
      Joey Henry

      • Joey:

        I will address your points when I have more time but wanted to ask two questions at this point in our discussion:

        (1) Do you agree with the OP, that Dr. Kruger’s proposed solution relegates God’s “want” that none perish to a good intention that was not acted upon?

        (2) If for the sake of argument, God could not create a world in which people have LFW (the true ability to choose between alternatives) and also never sin (thus not perishing), would you agree that my proposed solution would mean that God’s “want” that none perish was not just a good intention but acted upon?

        Thanks.

      • Joey:

        While I think through your prior comment of FW can I nudge you to get your thoughts on the the solution Dr. Kruger presents as well as the one I presented noting a for the sake of argument concession.

        Thanks,
        Mike

  6. Joey:

    I defined LFW as the ability of the agent to act contrary to his nature.

    Which is different that the definition I offered. I defined LFW as being able to “actually” choose between two or more alternatives. This includes being free from being decreed ahead of time such that the choice was necessitated to one of the options.

    You say you don’t deny premise #1, stated as “God sovereignly chose to govern people with the ability to decide between alternatives”, so I assume that you would agree with the first part of my definition.

    I think you believe that God at one point freed everyone from such bondage so that everyone has the capability to choose for or against the gospel.

    This is what Arminians propose Prevenient Grace (PG) does. When it is given and how it works varies within Arminianism but the basic idea is the same. PG enables a person so that they have the freedom (likely to something similar to that described in WCF IX.1 and 2) to choose between accepting or rejecting the gospel. PG works on the fallen natural so that the person is not limited to only rejecting the gospel. And PG work such that the person is not limited by necessity of a decree to accept the gospel.

    If you allow for an exercise of “free will” such that people can “actually” choose between two or more alternatives, how do you reconcile that with the divine determinism and decretive will of God?

    In determinism the ability to choose between two options is illusary. The choice was set when God decreed everything without foresight as to what the person would do.

    Using the example from the OP wouldn’t this be what is happening:
    1) God decrees person p will buy a TV at time t (instead of giving to feed poor)
    2) God works on the will/heart of person p to want a TV (instead of giving to feed poor)
    3) Person p buys a TV at time t (instead of giving to feed poor)

    The statements in WCF IX.1 and III.1 seem to be at odds. How do you see the ability (liberty) to actually decide between alternatives as being possible given determinism?

    In your reply I would thankful if you flush out a “positive” solution of the Reformed view. I am aware of the “negative” solution (which you noted in a prior comment) in which Calvinist’s counter that non-Reformed views have a similar problem related to the FK of future events such that they are “fixed” in the same way. But this counter does not explain how the Reformed view deals with the problem of having an “actual” choice between alternatives when that choice was decreed by God.

    We can continue tackling the “why create knowing their decision…” question after we have a better understanding on how we both see “free will” and determinism.

  7. Mike:

    You said:

    How do you see the ability (liberty) to actually decide between alternatives as being possible given determinism?

    Response:

    Respecting the alleged contradiction between the divine decree and human freedom, the following particulars are to be noticed. (a) The inspired writers are not conscious of a contradiction, because they do not allude to any or make any attempt to harmonize the two things. If a self-contradiction does not press upon them, it must be because there is no real contradiction. Revelation presents that view of truth which is afforded from a higher point of view than that occupied by the finite mind. Revealed truth is truth as perceived by the infinite intelligence. If no contradiction is perceived by God in a given case, there really is none. The mind of Christ evidently saw no conflict between his assertion that he was to be crucified in accordance with the divine decree and his assertion that Judas was a free and guilty agent in fulfilling this decree. (b) There is no contradiction between the divine decree and human liberty, provided the difference between an infinite and a finite being is steadily kept in mind. There would be a contradiction if it were asserted that an event is both certain and uncertain for the same being. But to say that it is certain for one being and uncertain for another is no contradiction. The difference between the omniscience of an infinite being and the fractional knowledge of a finite being explains this. For the divine mind, there is, in reality, no future event because all events are simultaneous, owing to that peculiarity in the cognition of an eternal being whereby there is no succession in it. All events thus being present to him are of course all of them certain events. But for a finite mind, events come before it in a series. Hence there are future events for the finite mind; and all that is future is uncertain. Again, it would be self-contradictory to say that an act of the human will is free for man and necessitated for God. But this is not said by the predestinarian. He asserts that an act of human will is free for both the divine and the human mind, but certain for the former and uncertain for the latter. God as well as man knows that the human will is self-moved and not forced from without. But this knowledge is accompanied with an additional knowledge on the part of God that is wanting upon the part of man. God, while knowing that the human will is free in every act, knows the whole series of its free acts in one intuition. Man does not. This additional element in divine knowledge arises from that peculiarity in divine consciousness just alluded to. All events within the sphere of human freedom, as well as that of physical necessity, are simultaneous to God. Man’s voluntary acts are not a series for the divine mind, but are all present at once and therefore are all of them certain to God. From the viewpoint of divine eternity and omniscience, there is no foreknowledge of human volitions. There is simply knowledge of all of them at once. (c) The alleged contradiction arises from assuming that there is only one way in which divine omnipotence can make an event certain. The predestinarian maintains that the certainty of all events has a relation to divine omnipotence as well as to divine omniscience. God not only knows all events, but he decrees them. He makes them certain by an exercise of power, but not by the same kind of power in every case. God makes some events certain by physical power; and some he makes certain by moral and spiritual power. Within the physical sphere, the divine decree makes certain by necessitating; within the moral sphere, the divine decree makes certain without necessitating. To decree is to bring within a plan. There is nothing in the idea of planning that necessarily implies compulsion. The operations of mind, as well as those of matter, may constitute parts of one great system without ceasing to be mental operations. God decrees phenomena in conformity with the nature and qualities which he has himself given to creatures and things. God’s decrees do not unmake God’s creation. He decrees that phenomena in the material world shall occur in accordance with material properties and laws, and phenomena in the moral world in accordance with moral faculties and properties. Within the sphere of matter, he decrees necessitated facts; within the sphere of mind, he decrees self-determined acts; and both alike are certain for God. Westminster Confession 3.1 affirms that “the liberty or contingency of second causes is not taken away, but rather established” by the divine decree. If God has decreed men’s actions to be free actions, then it is impossible that they should be necessitated actions. His decree makes the thing certain in this case, as well as in every other. The question how God does this cannot be answered by man because the mode of divine agency is a mystery to him. The notion of a decree is not contradictory to that of free agency, unless decree is defined as compulsion and it be assumed that God executes all his decrees by physical means and methods. No one can demonstrate that it is beyond the power of God to make a voluntary act of man an absolutely certain event. If he could, he would disprove divine omnipotence: “God, the first cause, orders all things to come to pass according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, or freely and contingently” (Westminster Confession 5.2; Turretin 6.6.6). The self-determination of the human will is the action of a free second cause. It is therefore decreed self-determination. In the instance of holiness, the certainty of the self-determination is explicable by the fact that God works in man “to will and to do.” In the instance of sin, the certainty of the self-determination is inexplicable, because we cannot say in this case that God works in man “to will and to do.” (See supplements 3.6.2 and 3.6.3.)

    William G.T. Shedd
    https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/divinedecrees.html

    Man is a free agent with the power of rational self-determination. He can reflect upon, and in an intelligent way choose, certain ends, and can also determine his action with respect to them. The decree of God however, carries with it necessity. God has decreed to effectuate all things or, if He has not decreed that, He has at least determined that they must come to pass. He has decided the course of man’s life for him.[Cf. Watson, Theological Institutes, Part II, Chap. XXVIII; Miley, Systematic Theology II, pp. 271 ff.] In answer to this objection it may be said that the Bible certainly does not proceed on the assumption that the divine decree is inconsistent with the free agency of man. It clearly reveals that God has decreed the free acts of man, but also that the actors are none the less free and therefore responsible for their acts, Gen. 50:19,20; Acts 2:23; 4:27,28. It was determined that the Jews should bring about the crucifixion of Jesus; yet they were perfectly free in their wicked course of action, and were held responsible for this crime. There is not a single indication in Scripture that the inspired writers are conscious of a contradiction in connection with these matters. They never make an attempt to harmonize the two. This may well restrain us from assuming a contradiction here, even if we cannot reconcile both truths.

    Moreover, it should be borne in mind that God has not decreed to effectuate by His own direct action whatsoever must come to pass. The divine decree only brings certainty into the events, but does not imply that God will actively effectuate them, so that the question really resolves itself into this, whether previous certainty is consistent with free agency. Now experience teaches us that we can be reasonably certain as to the course a man of character will pursue under certain circumstances, without infringing in the least on his freedom. The prophet Jeremiah predicted that the Chaldeans would take Jerusalem. He knew the coming event as a certainty, and yet the Chaldeans freely followed their own desires in fulfilling the prediction. Such certainty is indeed inconsistent with the Pelagian liberty of indifference, according to which the will of man is not determined in any way, but is entirely indeterminate, so that in every volition it can decide in opposition, not only to all outward inducements, but also to all inward considerations and judgments, inclinations and desires, and even to the whole character and inner state of man. But it is now generally recognized that such freedom of the will is a psychological fiction. However, the decree is not necessarily inconsistent with human freedom in the sense of rational self-determination, according to which man freely acts in harmony with his previous thoughts and judgments, his inclinations and desires, and his whole character. This freedom also has its laws, and the better we are acquainted with them, the more sure we can be of what a free agent will do under certain circumstances. God Himself has established these laws. Naturally, we must guard against all determinism, materialistic, pantheistic, and rationalistic, in our conception of freedom in the sense of rational self-determination.

    Louis Berkhof
    https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/divine-decrees-general/systematic-theology/louis-berkhof

  8. Joey:

    Hope you had a good weekend.

    I am always surprised when the answer, provided to the question regarding the liberty of people to decide between alternatives and its compatibility with divine determinism, is the same answer that I would give regarding the interaction between FK and contingent future actions.

    You shared Shedd’s quote:
    The difference between the omniscience of an infinite being and the fractional knowledge of a finite being explains this. For the divine mind, there is, in reality, no future event because all events are simultaneous, owing to that peculiarity in the cognition of an eternal being whereby there is no succession in it. All events thus being present to him are of course all of them certain events. But for a finite mind, events come before it in a series. Hence there are future events for the finite mind; and all that is future is uncertain. … From the viewpoint of divine eternity and omniscience, there is no foreknowledge of human volitions. There is simply knowledge of all of them at once.

    This response reasons that God experiences all of time in a simultaneous “now” and that this is the basis for His knowledge of all actions. This explanation is similar to the one C.S. Lewis gives in Mere Christianity:


    But if He knows I am going to do so—and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being that He can see ahead and we cannot. Well, if that were true, if God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are ‘Now’ for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not ‘foresee’ you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow’s actions in just the same way— because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already ‘Now’ for Him.

    If this is how we understand FK then we are not all that far off from each other. However, I don’t see how either of these answers align with the statements made in the WCF, which I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that you were advocating and defending. Perhaps you can tie these ideas together for me.

    (1) God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass … (III.1)
    (2) Although, God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. (III.2)

    We see these idea applied to the salvation of people in III.5 when we read that those “predestined unto life” were chosen “without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance” or “any other thing in the creature”.

    The WCF also asserts that God governs “according to His infallible foreknowledge,and the free and immutable counsel of His own will” (V.1) and also that “all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly” in relation to the “foreknowledge and decree of God” (V.2). Here we find the combination of FK and also of decrees presented in such a way as to make it hard to distinguish how they are related to each other.

    Taking all these statements together we get the explicit teaching that God decrees prior to His knowing what future actions would take place.

    A.W. Pink explains this clearly:
    God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be. It is therefore a reversing of the order of Scripture, a putting of the cart before the horse, to affirm that God elects because He foreknows people. The truth is, He “foreknows” because He has elected.

    and again

    The popular idea of Divine foreknowledge is altogether inadequate. God not only knew the end from the beginning, but He planned, fixed, predestinated everything from the beginning. And, as cause stands to effect, so God’s purpose is the ground of His prescience.

    In summary, it would seem that in the Reformed view the decree cannot be “according to foreknowledge” but rather is the basis (or the cause) for the “foreknowledge”. This was how I also understood the WCF and how most Calvinists I’ve read or dialogued with seem to understand it.

    Shedd in the same quote asserts:
    No one can demonstrate that it is beyond the power of God to make a voluntary act of man an absolutely certain event. If he could, he would disprove divine omnipotence”.

    Berkhof makes a similar set of assertions claiming that:
    (1) “God has decreed the free acts of man” and
    (2) “the actors are none the less free”.

    Berkhof argues that both are “clearly revealed” in Scripture and must be held. Shedd argues that they both must be held otherwise we reject (or disprove) God’s sovereignty. However, this is to jump to quickly to the end of the debate. What is being discussed is which of the different “clear” interpretations of Scripture is correct. Also under examination is, not that God is sovereign over all for all Christians would agree that He is, but how He has chosen to exercise His sovereignty as He governs over man.

    WCF chapter V teaches us that all things occur because God “orders them to fall out”. However, this order is “according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently”. Taking this and what was noted above in the WCF (and Pink) we find an ordering of “events” such that God first decrees, then knows all things because of the prior decrees, then orders all the decrees to “fall out”.

    In seeking to understand how this all works, the only “clarity” that is added by WCF V.4, is that the “sins of angels and men” do no occur “by a bare permission” but with a “most wise and powerful bounding”. Looking elsewhere the Synod of Dort explains (in the context of election) that God will “use such powers of His omnipotence as potently and infallibly [to] bend man’s will”. That does not sound like a free, voluntary, and contingent choice. And if it is through such expression of power that God causes the unbeliever to fall in line with the decree of election, then how are we to understand how any other decrees are put into effect?

    This quote your provided by Berkhof ackowledges that “Man is a free agent with the power of rational self-determination.” and that he “can also determine his action”. Digging some more we find Berkhof’s definition of “free will” which would seem to agree with the one that I offered:
    human freedom in the sense of rational self-determination, according to which man freely acts in harmony with his previous thoughts and judgments, his inclinations and desires, and his whole character.

    If this is also your view than we also are not far off regarding how free will decisions are made.

    However, it is at this point that cognitive dissonance takes over when reading over the Reformed view. If the person is not making a self-determined (albeit under various circumstances and influences), contingent choice then how is it free? But if the choice is self determined by the person AND determined beforehand by God then how does God align these two determining agents? How does God insure that the free/contingent choice aligns with what He decreed, particularly if that act was not foreseen? And if the choice is self-determined by the person and contingent (as I have advocated and I assume now that you agree with this) then doesn’t that have the problem of “limiting God’s sovereignty” (as was levied against my view)?

    The Berkhof quote asserts that “God has not decreed to effectuate by His own direct action whatsoever must come to pass. The divine decree only brings certainty into the events, but does not imply that God will actively effectuate them”. This statement waves a hand over that gap between God’s determined decree and the person’s self-determined act that must be correlated without the aid of foreknowledge of the act.

    But let us consider this idea and how it works outside of the context of the gospel for a moment.

    God, without the aid of FK, has decreed that a certain thief will kill a certain merchant. Later God speaks creation into existence. As time within creation unfolds, we find that our thief has found a merchant lost in the wood. Seeing he is rich and desiring the merchant’s wealth, the thief binds him and robs him of his money. Now our thief must decide whether to kill the merchant. Would the merchant escape the woods to report the crime? Would the merchant be able to identify him later? The merchant has a family and is pleading for mercy? Maybe I should let him go return to his family, I’ve never killed anyone before. As all these ideas run through his mind and are considered, the thief does indeed decide to kill the merchant. Thus the thief has murdered the merchant “according to [the] infallible foreknowledge,and the free and immutable counsel of [God’s] will.”

    How did God insure that the thief would choose to kill the merchant and fulfill the decree? Couldn’t the man have chosen to let the merchant go and thus act contrary to the decree? If he could not choose this other alternative. then how is that people have the ability to make self-determined, contingent choices (ie choose between alternatives)?

    This example (flushed out by me) was used by John Calvin who then concludes that the merchant’s “death was not only foreseen by the eye of God, but had been fixed by his decree.”

    The general tenor of these quotes would seem to agree with me (and other theologians) that people must have the liberty to make contingent choices in order to be people who have moral responsibility and not just actors in a play. This would seem to support the premise I offered to defend my argument that God did act on His desire to save all people. The constraint being that God desired to save people and not actors/stones.

    I offer one more C.S. Lewis quote:
    God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.
    Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.

    I will offer one more thought on the quotes you offered:

    The inspired writers are not conscious of a contradiction, because they do not allude to any or make any attempt to harmonize the two things. If a self-contradiction does not press upon them, it must be because there is no real contradiction.

    Perhaps the inspired writers were not conscious of a contradiction because they would not have understood God or His revelation in the way articulated by the WCF. You (or the authors quoted and you by extension of posting them) have assumed the interpretations in WCF are correct and then suggested that there can’t be a contradiction because there is no allusion to it in Scripture. But, perhaps the non-Reformed interpretations of Scripture that reject divine determinism, accept God as sovereign governing His creation in a providential manner, and assert LFW and God’s FK of future choices (which Shedd and C.S. Lewis explain so well) are correct. That would also explain why we find no allusions or attempts at harmonization. After all the non-Reformed view (in a broad sense) was what the early church taught for four centuries until Augustine articulated an interpretation of Scriptures within a predestination/deterministic view that would become the basis for later Reformed thinking.

    I find that the Reformed view as articulated in the WCF creates challenges and cognitive dissonance that is unnecessary. Not when there are reasonable, alternative interpretations of Scripture that are sound and in line with the early church teachings that do not create them.

    • Hi Mike:

      Have you read the entirety of Shedd and Berkhof’s article? It seems to me you haven’t. In those two articles, the eternal decree of God is discussed including its relation to foreknowledge. I pasted the sites in the hope that you’ll read them so that the questions that you are asking now will be avoided.

      Your questions:

      1) How did God insure that the thief would choose to kill the merchant and fulfill the decree? 2) Couldn’t the man have chosen to let the merchant go and thus act contrary to the decree? 3) If he could not choose this other alternative, then how is that people have the ability to make self-determined, contingent choices (ie choose between alternatives)?

      Brief Responses:
      1. The mechanics or mode upon which God makes a self-determined action of an agent certain is not revealed to us in Scripture (See particularly section c of Shedd). The factor however that made the event certain is God’s decree.
      2. No. If man can frustrate the decree of God, then God’s attribute of omnipotence is not upheld. From an God’s eternal perspective, the free choice of the agent is certain. From man’s temporal perspective, as it unfolds in time, he has a real choice according to his nature. He has natural freedom not libertarian freedom.
      3. To believe in the decree of God does not mean that man’s action is not self-determined. To make an event certain does not remove self-determination according to Scripture (see prophecies for example, particularly the death of Jesus (Acts 2:23)). As what we have said in response no. 1, God’s decree works in different ways so as to make an event certain according to his plan. In the sphere of moral circumstances, he works it out not by compulsion; rather, he works the fulfillment of his decree within man’s nature, desires and being. The mechanics of how God does this is unknown to us.

      I believe in reformed theology because of the strength of Scriptural evidence especially regarding Christ’s death in Acts 2:23. If you have an alternative, I’d be willing to listen.

      Regards,
      Joey Henry

      • Joey:

        I have not read the articles by Shedd and Berkhof only what you posted in your comment. There was not much “commentary” in your comment surrounding these quotes so I just went with what was provided. If there are specific points that you feel are pertinent to our discussion, can I request that you write up a summary of the ideas, the key parts of the quote, and what areas of the larger work address a particular question.

        If man can frustrate the decree of God, then God’s attribute of omnipotence is not upheld.

        I would agree with this statement, with the important distinction that I do not see Scripture teaching us that God has decreed all events. God has decreed some events, particularly those related to redemption. These include the creation of the nation of Israel through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the sending of His Son through the line of David, the death of His Son, and the future return of His Son. None of these acts could be frustrated by man. If they could then God would not be omnipotent.

        I believe that God is omnipotent and is providentially governing (ie active) over His creation. I don’t see Scripture teaching all events are foreordained prior to creation, only that all events are foreknown. And I see foreknowledge as being based on the free acts of people not on decrees (contra the WCF).

        … [man] has a real choice according to his nature.

        I don’t see this as logically possible in the Reformed view described in WCF. If God determines that a person will do X and that person cannot frustrate this decree then the person cannot choose option Y. And if the person cannot choose Y then there is no real contingent choice. The person might think they can choose Y but it is an illusion.

        The alternative is that God foreknows a person will do X. The person does X because they chose to do X instead of Y. The person could really have chosen to do Y. The choice of Y would not frustrate the decree of God because God did not decree what the person would do. If the person had chosen to do Y then God’s foreknowledge would have been different. He would have foreknown that the person would do Y.

        I believe in reformed theology because of the strength of Scriptural evidence especially regarding Christ’s death in Acts 2:23. If you have an alternative, I’d be willing to listen.

        In the end we are both looking for a way to understand all that Scripture is saying about God and His interaction with us. Both of us believe that God is sovereign and in control. We differ as to how He exercises this control. We both believe that God has foreknowledge of future events. We differ (at least using WCF as a guide) as to how He obtains this knowledge. We both believe that God decrees events. We differ as to whether He decrees all events or only some events primarily related to redemption. We both believe that people have a free will to choose between alternatives, that God is the not author of sin, and that people are morally accountable. We differ as to whether these are philosophically and logically possible in a system rooted in divine determinism.

        Neither one of us believe that man saves himself. I would hope that you would see that the Arminian view does not say man can save himself. We would both agree that God is the one who saves. God provides the Savior as the means to justify and redeem people. It is the blood of Jesus that justifies God’s forgiveness of our sins. God provides the conditions upon which He will apply the atoning sacrifice of His Son (which is faith in Him and Christ’s work). God provides the grace to enable a person to respond to the gospel. And God fulfills His promise to justify, redeem, and save all who meet the condition He has set. We differ as to whether those who are saved and those who perish were unconditionally chosen and whether the enabling grace given is irresistible.

        Regarding Acts 2:23, I believe that God predetermined to send His Son as the Savior and that He was active in the events that led to Christ’s crucifixion.I would not pretend to know how God worked in bringing about the death of His Son according to His redemptive plan. But would venture that He hardened many during that Passover week as a result of their rejection to the light that was received (similar to Pharaoh) in the prior years of Christ’s ministry. This light would have been a combination of Jesus’ teachings and working of miracles, along with the work of the Spirit and the OT Scriptures. The willful rejection of all this light would have been the basis for the hardening that resulted in people, particularly the leaders of Israel, playing their part in Christ’s death.

        Jesus also seems to have purposely withheld information during His earthly ministry from people (using parables, exhortations to disciples to be silent). This may have been to influence a temporary rejection of Him during Passover week. I say temporary because we know that the provision to withhold information was to end after His resurrection.

        There are likely other possibilities, but in the end I don’t think God’s activity during this event requires one to accept the divine determinism of all events.

        Returning to the OP, we have three options in how we are to handle the passages which speak of God wanting all to be saved. We have focused on two.

        (1) Dr. Kruger’s proposed solution:

        (1) God wants all to be saved and none to perish

        (2) God wants to save only some [elect] and allow others to perish for His glory.

        (3) God acted on desire #2 (rather than #1) and unchangeably and unconditionally decreed who would be saved (elect) through the death of His Son and who would perish.

        (4) God acted on desire #2 (rather than #1) and grants efficacious, irresistible grace to the elect (see act #3) so only they will accept the offer of salvation through faith.

        Do you agree that this option makes God’s “want” that none perish a good intention that was not acted upon?

        (2) The non-Reformed option I proposed:

        (1) God wants to govern people with the ability to decide between alternatives.

        (2) God wants all people to be saved and none to perish

        (3) God acted on desire #1 and #2 and made salvation possible to all people through the death of His Son.

        (4) God acted on desire #1 and #2 and through prevenient grace enables people so they can choose to accept or reject the offer of salvation through faith.

        For the sake of argument, if God could not create a world in which people have the ability to choose between alternatives and also never sin, would you agree that my proposed solution would mean that God’s “want” that none perish was not just a good intention but acted upon?

        (3) Having read through your post, the option you prefer
        If I understand it correctly, your view might be summarized as God having the desire to save all the elect rather than a desire to save all people. Therefore God, in unconditionally choosing to save some and not others has actually acted on His desire to only save some and did not ever have a desire to save all.

        (1) God wants all [types of] people to be saved and none [of the elect] to perish

        (2) God wants to save only some [elect] and allow the others to perish for His glory.

        (3) God acted on desire #1 and #2 and unchangeably and unconditionally decreed who would be saved (elect) through the death of His Son and who would perish.

        (4) God acted on desire #1 and #2 and grants efficacious, irresistible grace to the elect (see act #3) so only they will accept the offer of salvation through faith.

        I modeled the structure of this view to align as much as possible with the others to highlight the contrasts. Did I understand and represent your view on God’s desire to save all correctly?

  9. Hi Mike:

    You said:
    I don’t see Scripture teaching all events are foreordained prior to creation, only that all events are foreknown.

    Response:
    The divine decree is universal. It includes “whatsoever comes to pass,” be it physical or moral, good or evil: “He works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:10–11); “known unto God are all his works from the beginning” (Acts 15:18; Prov. 16:33; Dan. 4:34–35; Matt. 10:29–30; Acts 17:26; Job 14:5; Isa. 46:10): (a) The good actions of men: “Created unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10); (b) the wicked actions of men: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28; Ps. 76:10; Prov. 16:4); (c) so-called accidental events: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov. 16:33; Gen. 45:8; 50:20); “a bone of him shall not be broken” (John 20:36; Ps. 34:20; Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12); (d) the means as well as the end: “God has chosen you to salvation, through sanctification (en hagiasmō)4 of the Spirit” (2 Thess. 2:13); “he has chosen us that we should be holy” (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2); “elect through sanctification of the Spirit” (Acts 27:24, 31):

    The same divine purpose which determines any event determines that event as produced by its causes, promoted by its means, depending on its conditions, and followed by its results. Things do not come to pass in a state of isolation; neither were they predetermined so to come to pass. In other words, God’s purpose embraces the means along with the end, the cause along with the effect, the condition along with the result or issue suspended upon it; the order, relations, and dependences of all events, as no less essential to the divine plan than the events themselves. With reference to the salvation of the elect, the purpose of God is not only that they shall be saved, but that they shall believe, repent, and persevere in faith and holiness in order to salvation.
    —Crawford, Fatherhood of God, 426

    (e) the time of every man’s death: “his days are determined” (Job 14:5); “the measure of my days” (Ps. 39:4); the Jews could not kill Christ “because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30). It is objected that fifteen years were added to Hezekiah’s life after the prophet had said, “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live” (Isa. 38:1, 5). But this assertion of the prophet was not a statement of the divine decree, but of the nature of his disease, which was mortal had not God miraculously interposed. — Shedd.

    You said:
    I don’t see this as logically possible in the Reformed view described in WCF.

    Response:
    If you accept some choices of an free agent are decreed then it is logically possible. Example: Acts 2:23 and Acts 4:27-28. In this latter passage it says: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”

    You said:
    The alternative is that God foreknows a person will do X.

    Response:
    The divine decree is the necessary condition of divine foreknowledge. If God does not first decide what shall come to pass, he cannot know what will come to pass. An event must be made certain before it can be known as a certain event. In order that a man may foreknow an act of his own will, he must first have decided to perform it. So long as he is undecided about a particular volition, he cannot foreknow this volition. Unless God had determined to create a world, he could not know that there would be one. For the world cannot create itself, and there is but one being who can create it. If therefore this being has not decided to create a world, there is no certainty that a world will come into existence; and if there is no certainty of a world, there can be no certain foreknowledge of a world. So long as anything remains undecreed, it is contingent and fortuitous. It may or may not happen. In this state of things, there cannot be knowledge of any kind. If a man had the power to cause an eclipse of the sun and had decided to do this, he could then foreknow that the event would occur. But if he lacks the power or, if having the power, he has not formed the purpose, he can have no knowledge of any kind respecting the imagined event. He has neither knowledge nor foreknowledge because there is nothing to be known. Blank ignorance is the mental condition (see Smith, Theology, 119n).

    In respect to this point, the Socinian is more logical than the Arminian. Both agree that God does not decree those events which result from the action of the human will. Voluntary acts are not predetermined, but depend solely upon human will. Whether they shall occur rests ultimately upon man’s decision, not upon God’s. Hence human volitions are uncertainties for God, in the same way that an event which does not depend upon a man’s decision is an uncertainty for him. The inference that the Socinian drew from this was that foreknowledge of such events as human volitions is impossible to God. God cannot foreknow a thing that may or may not be a thing, an event that may or may not be an event. The Arminian, shrinking from this limitation of divine omniscience, asserts that God can foreknow an uncertainty, that is, that he can have foreknowledge without foreordination. But in this case, there is in reality nothing to be foreknown; there is no object of foreknowledge. If the question be asked “what does God foreknow?” and the answer be that he foreknows that a particular volition will be a holy one, the reply is that so far as the divine decree is concerned the volition may prove to be a sinful one. In this case, God’s foreknowledge is a conjecture only, not knowledge. It is like a man’s guess. If, on the contrary, the answer be that God foreknows that the volition will be a sinful one, the reply is that it may prove to be a holy one. In this case, also, God’s foreknowledge is only a conjecture. To know or to foreknow an uncertainty is a solecism. For in order to either knowledge or foreknowledge, there must be only one actual thing to be known or foreknown. But in the supposed case of contingency and uncertainty, there are two possible things, either of which may turn out to be an object of knowledge, but neither of which is the one certain and definite object required. There is, therefore, nothing knowable in the case. To know or foreknow an uncertainty is to know or foreknow a nonentity. If it be objected, that since God, as eternal, decrees all things simultaneously and consequently there is really no foreordination for him, it is still true that in the logical order an event must be a certainty before it can be known as such. Though there be no order of time and succession, yet in the order of nature, a physical event or a human volition must be decreed and certain for God that it may be cognized by him as an event or a volition.

    The most important aspect of the divine decree is that it brings all things that come to pass in space and time into a plan. There can be no system of the universe, if there be no one divine purpose that systematizes it. Schemes in theology which reject the doctrine of the divine decree necessarily present a fractional and disconnected view of God, man, and nature. — Shedd

    You said:
    For the sake of argument, if God could not create a world in which people have the ability to choose between alternatives and also never sin, would you agree that my proposed solution would mean that God’s “want” that none perish was not just a good intention but acted upon?

    Response:
    No. The question is deeper than whether God is capable of making a possible world under discussion which I argue he could. The question is whether the choices of free agents have an existence outside God’s mind. If it is not eternal, then there must be a ground on its being certain in the foreknowledge of God. If it is certain in God’s perspective and if it is not eternal, then such free choice is only possible because God willed it so. In this sense, God willed a world where he is certain that people perish and therefore having known this and still proceed to create such world, the criticism against the reformed formulation can be applied to your system.

    You said:
    If I understand it correctly, your view might be summarized as God having the desire to save all the elect rather than a desire to save all people.

    Response:
    With regard to 2 Peter 3:9, yes for I can not maintain in good conscience a universal desire based on the exegesis of the text.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

    • Joey:

      The divine decree is universal. It includes “whatsoever comes to pass,” be it physical or moral, good or evil …

      Without a presupposition of divine determinism these verses, as I am sure comes as no surprise, can be interpreted differently than teaching divine determinism of all events. Time right now does not permit exploring all of the passages you list but I would note that many of these passages speak of what is “known unto God”, his setting boundaries, or His working out His redemptive plan rather than of His decreeing everything.

      Since the Ephesians passages are one of the pillars of the Reformed view, I will highlight some alternative ideas on interpreting this chapter.

      The emphasis of Ephesians is on Christ. It is through Him that all the spiritual blessings described are possible.

      God chose before time to make salvation available through Jesus Christ as the elect vessel. If we are in this vessel, or “boat” if you will, we receive salvation and acceptance from God. This is a biblical view of election: we are elect inasmuch as we stand in the elect vessel, Jesus Christ himself. “Just as God chose us in Him.”

      Notice also that election has a purpose: our being sanctified in the present life and accepted of God, as it says that God chose us in Him so that “we would be holy and blameless before Him.” … the criterion, “whoever has the Son has the life, whoever does not have the Son does not have the life” (1 John 5:12).

      The Arminian view of Ephesians can be summarized as follows:

      Ephesians 1:11 means, according to Arminian theology, that “all things” refers especially to God’s redemptive plan and purpose for his people. The context makes that clear. All good is accomplished by God and God will carry to completion the plan to redeem and restore creation in spite of human sin and evil and in response to it—somehow (in a way we cannot see or understand) incorporating it into his unfolding work in and for the world.

      On a related note you wrote that “the most important aspect of the divine decree is that it brings all things that come to pass in space and time into a plan.”

      To this I would repeat part of the quote from the article above: “God will carry to completion the plan to redeem and restore creation in spite of human sin and evil and in response to it”

      This plan, in the Armininan view, is not that God has written out a big script that lists out all the events as He determines they must occur. The plan is one in which all events that do occur, through both the use and misuse of free will, are brought together into that crucial moment when God’s Kingdom will come and creation will be made new.

      A.W. Tozer explains:

      God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so

      Robert Shank writes:

      He who “works all things after the council of His will” is at work in the world in these momentous times, moving inexorably toward fulfillment of an eternal purpose that attenuates creation and gives meaning to human history. History by divine appointment, is teleological, and the sweep of human events, whatever the sound and fury, moves toward the appointed end: “Thy kingdom come.”

      This plan all comes together when God invades and takes back creation as Lewis writes:

      Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise … Why is He not landing in force, invading it? … He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely… When [God invades] it is the end of the world. When the author walks on stage the play is over. God is going to invade… It will be too late then to choose your side. … That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen

      Several aspects of your response deal with the relationship of FK and decrees.

      You wrote: God’s foreknowledge is a conjecture only, not knowledge. … The divine decree is the necessary condition of divine foreknowledge. If God does not first decide what shall come to pass, he cannot know what will come to pass.

      This is a presupposition. God clearly has foreknowledge as Isaiah 44:7 tells us: … “let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place.” As we survey Scripture we find that God tells us that He has FK. Not how He obtains that FK.

      Your Shedd quote (as well as Lewis) explore a possible way for God to obtain FK w/o decrees through seeing a simultaneous “now”.

      One of the quotes provided says of Arminianism that: Voluntary acts are not predetermined, but depend solely upon human will. Whether they shall occur rests ultimately upon man’s decision, not upon God’s”

      Saying actions depend “solely upon human will” misses the nuances of influences, circumstances, God’s setting boundaries, as well as God enabling, and even hardening at times. But the thrust of the quote is that “voluntary acts are not predetermined” but are “man’s decision” and that idea would be accurate. When this quote asserts that an event’s occurrence “rests ultimately upon man’s decision, not upon God’s” it is correct if it means that man ultimately chooses what he will do. However, it misses the fact that God controls the outcome of that choice. A person’s intended outcome may not be what actually occurs. God may thwart or act to bring about different results despite the a person’s choice and intent. For example the Jewish leaders planned and chose to try and trap and kill Jesus. God did not determine that choice for them. But when they acted on their decision God thwarted their plans insuring that Jesus was able to escape until God’s timing (John 7:30).

      Ultimately the Reformed view must settle for a paradox and the cognitive dissonance in which God decrees all human choices and yet still consider the choices of people as “free”. You have argued that within divine determinism people can “self-determine” their choices and have the freedom of contingent choice. Despite assertions to the contrary, an effectively decreed outcome removes any freedom to actually choose among alternatives. It allows only the decreed choice to be made otherwise God’s decree would be frustrated (as you have noted).

  10. Hey Joey:

    The question is deeper than whether God is capable of making a possible world under discussion which I argue he could … God willed a world where he is certain that people perish and therefore having known this and still proceed to create such world, the criticism against the reformed formulation can be applied to your system.

    Better philosopher-theologians than either of us (Plantinga, Tozer, Lewis) have argued that it is not possible to create a world with free people able to choose between alternatives and still eliminate evil. So I imagine that we will be at an impasse here.

    Based on your responses you are smart and well read. I would ask you to consider the implications of divine determinism and the problem of evil.

    In the Reformed understanding all things must be decreed – including all evil. But this would mean that God does not “permit evil” as most would normally understand the word permit. It would mean that God effectually determines all of the evil that occurs and purposefully writes that into human history.

    Consider: when Arminians assert that evil occurs with God’s permission we are saying that God foreknew man would abuse his freedom to choose and do evil which God could thwart but did not. Instead He has allowed that evil to occur and providentially work it into His plan to redeem and restore.

    Contrast that: when the Calvinist asserts that evil occurs with God’s permission they do not have foreknowledge of contingent choice to back that up. Instead they must see all evil as an event that must “have its first conception in the divine mind, and be fixed upon by the divine Will, and that must be the first intentional cause of its existence”

    Consider further, In reading the Genesis account, God desired to create people in His image to enjoy His creation and to have a relationship with Him. It was also to worship and glorify Him (Rev 5:12). If it was possible to create such a world (in which free people will not sin) we can ask: why did God actualize a world with so much evil?

    Reformers can argue that evil and the perishing of the wicked brings Him glory (WCF III.7), but the aseity of God would tell us that God did not need to be glorified through evil nor the perishing of the wicked (also John 17:5; Acts 17:24-25).

    Tozer explains this well:

    The problem of why God created the universe still troubles thinking men; but if we cannot know why, we can at least know that He did not bring His worlds into being to meet some unfulfilled need in Himself, as a man might build a house to shelter him against the winter cold or plant a field of corn to provide him with necessary food. The word ‘necessary’ is wholly foreign to God.

    and again

    To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being. Need is a creature-word and cannot be spoken of the Creator. God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no Necessary relation to anything outside of Himself. His interest in His creatures arises from His sovereign good pleasure, not from any need those creatures can supply nor from any completeness they can bring to Him who is complete in himself.

    If God does not need to create a world filled with evil to be glorified then why create such a world when others are possible? I would speculate (along with Plantinga, Tozer, Lewis) that such a world is not possible.

    If you accept some choices of an free agent are decreed then it is logically possible [for them all to be]

    Notice that neither Scripture nor I say the choices of the free agents involved are decreed. It is the event that was decreed – Jesus would be delivered over.

    I postulated that people were limited in their choices by judicial hardening which was a response to prior free choices. Part of this hardening also included a reduction/removal of the light they had already been given. God gave the people numerous reasons to accept Jesus as the Messiah (2:22) but the people rejected them just as God foreknew (not decreed) they would.
    Further God foresaw that people would chose to make plans to kill Jesus and attempted to carry these out (Matt 26:4). God could have rescued Jesus via legions of angels (Matt 26:53) or intervened to save Jesus as He had done prior (John 7:30) when these plans and attempts on Jesus’ life were made. But during this particular Passover week it was God’s time for His Son die thus He permitted the choices of the leaders to accomplish and bring about what they wanted which was to have Jesus delivered over and put to death (Matt 26:4; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28). Jesus being handed over and crucified was an event that God planned before creation as the means by which He would bring redemption to all people, foreknowing they would rebel.

    If God acted further and used His power to “potently and infallibly bend man’s will” than in that instance I would say that the freedom to choose was removed. The free agent was not free to make a different decision at that moment. This bending of the will would be similar to the Calvinist view of man’s involvement in the decision point of salvation. God applies His power (in this case as efficacious grace) to transform the will as a monergistic act. Only one choice was possible by virtue of the decree. God not man was the deciding factor.

    BTW, I can’t help but notice you have not answering the question regarding your opinion of Dr. Kruger’s position.

  11. Hi Mike:

    You said:
    Time right now does not permit exploring all of the passages you list but I would note that many of these passages speak of what is “known unto God”, his setting boundaries, or His working out His redemptive plan rather than of His decreeing everything.

    Response:
    I agree with you that these passages speaks of what is known unto God. But it also tells us that these events are made “certain” in the knowledge of God. As you note, God is working out his redemptive plan not by compulsion (as you seem to use “decree” here). One of his methods as you mentioned is by setting boundaries. There are different mechanics on how God makes events certain. When we use the term “Divine Decree”, it simply means that God orders events with certainty. How he brings it to certainty is something we have no access. Thus, “God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. Some events are necessary, that is, are brought about by the action of necessary causes; others are contingent or free, or are acts of free agents; some are morally good, others are sinful.” (Hodge, The Decrees of God, Systematic Theology P1).

    You said:
    Ephesians 1:11 means, according to Arminian theology, that “all things” refers especially to God’s redemptive plan and purpose for his people. The context makes that clear. All good is accomplished by God and God will carry to completion the plan to redeem and restore creation in spite of human sin and evil and in response to it—somehow (in a way we cannot see or understand) incorporating it into his unfolding work in and for the world.

    Response:
    I agree with you with what you are asserting here. I seem to not see why this is exclusively an Arminian theology. For a good exegetical work on Eph 1, I recommend: http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj11e.pdf

    You said:
    This plan, in the Armininan view, is not that God has written out a big script that lists out all the events as He determines they must occur. The plan is one in which all events that do occur, through both the use and misuse of free will, are brought together into that crucial moment when God’s Kingdom will come and creation will be made new.

    Response:
    You seem to view Divine Decree as compulsion — i.e. writing a big script. Again this is not how reformed theologians view Divine Decree. The Divine Decree orders an event to be certain. How God makes it certain is unknown to us. Here: “He makes them certain by an exercise of power, but not by the same kind of power in every case. God makes some events certain by physical power; and some he makes certain by moral and spiritual power. Within the physical sphere, the divine decree makes certain by necessitating; within the moral sphere, the divine decree makes certain without necessitating. To decree is to bring within a plan. There is nothing in the idea of planning that necessarily implies compulsion. The operations of mind, as well as those of matter, may constitute parts of one great system without ceasing to be mental operations. God decrees phenomena in conformity with the nature and qualities which he has himself given to creatures and things. God’s decrees do not unmake God’s creation. He decrees that phenomena in the material world shall occur in accordance with material properties and laws, and phenomena in the moral world in accordance with moral faculties and properties. Within the sphere of matter, he decrees necessitated facts; within the sphere of mind, he decrees self-determined acts; and both alike are certain for God. Westminster Confession 3.1 affirms that “the liberty or contingency of second causes is not taken away, but rather established” by the divine decree. If God has decreed men’s actions to be free actions, then it is impossible that they should be necessitated actions. His decree makes the thing certain in this case, as well as in every other. The question how God does this cannot be answered by man because the mode of divine agency is a mystery to him. The notion of a decree is not contradictory to that of free agency, unless decree is defined as compulsion and it be assumed that God executes all his decrees by physical means and methods. No one can demonstrate that it is beyond the power of God to make a voluntary act of man an absolutely certain event. If he could, he would disprove divine omnipotence: “God, the first cause, orders all things to come to pass according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, or freely and contingently” (Westminster Confession 5.2; Turretin 6.6.6). The self-determination of the human will is the action of a free second cause. It is therefore decreed self-determination. In the instance of holiness, the certainty of the self-determination is explicable by the fact that God works in man “to will and to do.” In the instance of sin, the certainty of the self-determination is inexplicable, because we cannot say in this case that God works in man “to will and to do.” (See supplements 3.6.2 and 3.6.3.)” — W.G.T. Shedd, Divine Decrees

    You said:
    This is a presupposition. God clearly has foreknowledge as Isaiah 44:7 tells us: … “let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place.” As we survey Scripture we find that God tells us that He has FK. Not how He obtains that FK.

    Response:
    I agree it Isaiah 44:7 tells us that God has foreknowledge. But, if we have to ask why God can declare the future to be, the transcendent cause is God’s will. Foreknowledge does not make an event certain but merely acknowledges what is certain. In other words, God knows all actual events in the future not because these event have an existence outside God’s will but because God willed them to be. (To deny this would force you to say that future events have an eternal existence outside God’s will.) This act of willing is encompassed in the Divine Decree. Here: “The Arminian… asserts that God can foreknow an uncertainty, that is, that he can have foreknowledge without foreordination. But in this case, there is in reality nothing to be foreknown; there is no object of foreknowledge. If the question be asked “what does God foreknow?” and the answer be that he foreknows that a particular volition will be a holy one, the reply is that so far as the divine decree is concerned the volition may prove to be a sinful one. In this case, God’s foreknowledge is a conjecture only, not knowledge. It is like a man’s guess. If, on the contrary, the answer be that God foreknows that the volition will be a sinful one, the reply is that it may prove to be a holy one. In this case, also, God’s foreknowledge is only a conjecture. To know or to foreknow an uncertainty is a solecism. For in order to either knowledge or foreknowledge, there must be only one actual thing to be known or foreknown. But in the supposed case of contingency and uncertainty, there are two possible things, either of which may turn out to be an object of knowledge, but neither of which is the one certain and definite object required. There is, therefore, nothing knowable in the case. To know or foreknow an uncertainty is to know or foreknow a nonentity. If it be objected, that since God, as eternal, decrees all things simultaneously and consequently there is really no foreordination for him, it is still true that in the logical order an event must be a certainty before it can be known as such. Though there be no order of time and succession, yet in the order of nature, a physical event or a human volition must be decreed and certain for God that it may be cognized by him as an event or a volition.” W.G.T. Shedd, Divine Decree

    You said:
    When this quote asserts that an event’s occurrence “rests ultimately upon man’s decision, not upon God’s” it is correct if it means that man ultimately chooses what he will do. However, it misses the fact that God controls the outcome of that choice. A person’s intended outcome may not be what actually occurs.

    Response:
    Divine decree does not eliminate self-determination. Man ultimately chooses what he will do as a secondary agent. But the certainty of that choice rests in the will of God. In other words, before the world was, that actual choice is certain in God’s foreknowledge although that choice has not been made yet by the secondary agent. The fixing of that choice in the mind of God (his foreknowledge) is encompassed in the divine decree. You are also correct that the secondary agent’s intention might be to a different effect but God decrees the final outcome. The means upon which he fulfills the final outcome is included in his plan/decree in that the secondary agent should freely choose A, with intention B but the outcome would be C.

    You said:
    Ultimately the Reformed view must settle for a paradox and the cognitive dissonance in which God decrees all human choices and yet still consider the choices of people as “free”. You have argued that within divine determinism people can “self-determine” their choices and have the freedom of contingent choice.

    Response:
    Again, the Scripture is our highest authority. It presents to us several paradox yet our logic bows down to its revelation. The Scripture presents human choices although decreed by God to be “self-determined”. How he does it, we don’t know. For example, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28). Here, the actions of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and Israel (all categories of people, in fact at that time) did what was predestined to take place. Do you deny these choices are “self-determined”? If not, then you have your answer right here at the cross of Christ and that should, above all else, define your theology.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  12. Hi Mike:

    You said:
    Better philosopher-theologians than either of us (Plantinga, Tozer, Lewis) have argued that it is not possible to create a world with free people able to choose between alternatives and still eliminate evil. So I imagine that we will be at an impasse here.

    Response:
    Plantinga teaches as Calvin College which held to a high reformed tradition. Tozer is not a philosopher. Lewis, if you are referring to C.S. Lewis is a literary professor not a philosopher. Whatever, these people teaches, check it against the Scripture. But interestingly, can you point me to works of Plantinga, Tozer or C.S. Lewis where he asserted your position above, i.e. it is impossible for God to create a world with free choices and eliminate evil?

    You said:
    When Arminians assert that evil occurs with God’s permission we are saying that God foreknew man would abuse his freedom to choose and do evil which God could thwart but did not. Instead He has allowed that evil to occur and providentially work it into His plan to redeem and restore.

    Response:
    We are back to square one. If I were to play the devil’s advocate: First, God foreknew evil to occur. It came from his mind. No secondary agent ever thought of it first because they have not yet existed. But it was in God’s mind all along playing in his foreknowledge. Second, he could have thwart evil but he did not. He could have chosen not to create at all so evil won’t exist or chose to create only those he knows who wouldn’t do evil. But he did not. Instead what he thought in his mind (in his foreknowledge), with all that’s going to happen both evil and good, he pursued to occur. No secondary agent have thought about it for they have not yet existed. God thought about it first and actualise it the way he wanted it to be.

    Consider a Reformed answer:
    Read W.G.T. Shedd in section “Efficacious and Permissive Decrees”
    https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/divinedecrees.html

    Read also Charles Hodge in section “B. Foreordination of Sin inconsistent with Holiness”
    http://www.audiowebman.org/start/books/charles_hidge/vol_1/vol_0109.htm

    You said:
    Notice that neither Scripture nor I say the choices of the free agents involved are decreed. It is the event that was decreed – Jesus would be delivered over.

    Response:
    This passage from Scripture:
    For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place (Acts 4:27-28).

    For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed! (Luke 22:22) — Judas action was prophesied. Is Judas capable of saying “no”?

    For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. (Rev. 17:17)

    Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. (Mathew 26:34) — Jesus makes certain Peter’s action. Does Peter have the power to break free from such prophetic utterance?

    I listed a few of the Scriptural references of choices that are made certain by God (decreed) before they occur. If you agree with me that these choices were certain and yet these are self-determined, then you have your answer here. God makes the free choices of secondary agents certain and from God’s perspective, there is no way the secondary agent would choose to the contrary from what he wanted to actualise things to be. From God’s perspective, the choice was made already in the mind of God even before the creature existed or presented with the situation. Yet, we affirm as Scripture affirms that these choices are self-determined by the secondary agent. How God does this, we don’t know.

    You said:
    BTW, I can’t help but notice you have not answering the question regarding your opinion of Dr. Kruger’s position.

    Response:
    On what specific point?

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

    • Joey:

      I wanted to know after all of our discussion what your opinion of Dr. Kruger’s position was. Specifically do you agree with my response: that the solution as presented on Dr. Kruger’s blog makes God’s “want” that none perish a good intention that was not acted upon? I assume that since he does not interpret (or at least does not make that part of his solution) the passages like 2 Peter 3:9 etc. as being limited to the elect that you might agree with my OP but was not sure.

      Thanks,
      Mike

    • Joey:

      In the book Introducing Philosophy of Religion (link to page), it notes Alvin Plantiga’s view on this topic (emphasis added):

      One important version of the free will defense is offered by Alvin Plantinga, and in truncated form it goes something like this: It is possible that God, even being omnipotent, could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil. Furthermore, it is possible that God, even being omnibenevolent, would desire to create a world which contains evil if moral goodness requires free moral creatures.

      Also of note the book provides this interesting quote from Plantinga as well:

      God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all

      as well as this one:

      If persons have libertarian free will, as described above, then there are certain worlds that even an all-powerful being could not create.

      And I agree that we should always check ideas against the Scripture. The challenge of course is assessing the multiple reasonable interpretations of Scripture. That is when philosophy (really using reason & logic) and the history of a doctrine (particularly early in the church) can provide valuable insights.

    • Joey:

      he could have thwart evil but he did not. He could have chosen not to create at all so evil won’t exist

      I will quote the ever quotable C.S. Lewis, “Of course God knew what would happen if [people] used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.”

      He could have … chose to create only those he knows who wouldn’t do evil.

      That has become the central question in our particular exchange. Could God choose to create people who possess the freedom to make contingent choices but who will not do evil?

      I already added the Plantinga info, here is the C.S. Lewis quote that is pertinent to this idea:

      God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t.

      Tozer is not clear about the possibility or impossibility of such a world but does see people as free and does not see evil events as determined by God. He argues that God’s decree was for people to “be free to exercise moral choice”, and that this has led to evil which God permitted. (link):

      The first [problem] is the presence in the creation of those things which God cannot approve, such as evil, pain, and death. If God is sovereign He could have prevented their coming into existence. Why did He not do so?


      For the Christian this explanation [dualism] will not do, for it flatly contradicts the truth taught so emphatically throughout the whole Bible, that there is one God and that He alone created the heaven and the earth and all the things that are therein. God’s attributes are such as to make impossible the existence of another God. The Christian admits that he does not have the final answer to the riddle of permitted evil. … there are a few things we do know. In His sovereign wisdom God has permitted evil to exist in carefully restricted areas of His creation, a kind of fugitive outlaw whose activities are temporary and limited in scope. In doing this God has acted according to His infinite wisdom and goodness.

      and

      God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it.

  13. Joey

    Did we ever leave square one… 🙂

    As I survey the list of passages the first thing that struck me was the equivalence with which you see FK and decree. We are not told in Scripture that FK is based on a decree. You assume decrees as the basis of FK and thus whenever Scripture affirms the FK of an event you conclude that there is a foreordained decree behind it and thus the passage supports the Reformed view.

    For example in Matt 26:34 you argue that Jesus telling Peter that he will deny Him 3x “makes certain Peter’s action.” But this is not the case. Jesus’ FK of Peter’s future choices does not mean that these choices were decreed before the foundation of the world. Nor does it mean that Jesus rendered Peter’s choice certain. What renders the choice as being certain is Peter doing it. And what made the decision free is Peter’s self-determined choice to deny Christ over the alternative of choosing to align with Him. What is amazing is that God could know this ahead of time. How God could know it ahead of time, of course, is not known though there are numerous theories on how this might be.

    God knows all actual events in the future not because these event have an existence outside God’s will but because God willed them to be. (To deny this would force you to say that future events have an eternal existence outside God’s will.)

    The future events are self-determined by people in their will right? And God’s will was to grant people the freedom to make contingent choices according to their own will? If we accept both of these ideas (and based on our conversation I assume that we do) then future events do not exist outside of God’s will. God willed that people have the freedom to make choices according to their own will. But this of course is not the same as saying that God has decreed what the choices of each person will actually be, only that His will is that people can make them within His creation.

    You seem to view Divine Decree as … writing a big script. Again this is not how reformed theologians view Divine Decree.

    Actually, some Reformed theologians are willing to admit that a script is a fair analogy to describe divine determinism
    (link).

    Consider a “time line” leading up to creation being spoken into existence. The first thing that happens in the Reformed view is God decrees all events prior to creation. These decrees become the basis for His FK. God does not base His decrees or plans of all events based on what the people will choose because He does not foresee any of their actions. Now imagine that God were to write down all of these decrees in a book. And further, imagine that we are able to read that book before creation. We would find in this book everything that everyone will ever do. This book is the “script” by which the world and all people in it will play their part. If we suspend for the moment any need to address “how or why” the people will play their part doesn’t this fairly represent what is happening before creation?

    From God’s perspective, the choice was made already in the mind of God even before the creature existed or presented with the situation. Yet, we affirm as Scripture affirms that these choices are self-determined by the secondary agent. How God does this, we don’t know.

    It is encouraging that you define “free will” as including the ideas that the person self-determines their decision and that they have the freedom to actually choose between alternatives. Most Calvinists reject these two aspects of FW and adopt a compatibilistic definition of “free will”.

    The reason most Calvinists reject LFW is that setting it alongside divine determinism presents a contradiction or at least a contrary set of premises.

    Here is a formal presentation of this:

    The Reformed view starts with the premise (E): No person can frustrate God’s decree.
    If we accept that LFW means that a person has the freedom to choose between 2 alternatives that means they can choose X or Y.

    Given: it has been determined by God that a person will choose X.
    Thus: a person will not frustrate the decree if they choose X.
    Thus: a person will frustrate the decree if they choose Y.

    Since the Reformed view asserts (E) No person can frustrate God’s decree. Therefore: it is not possible for a person to choose Y because by definition that would frustrate the decree.

    Using the square of opposition we have the following.

    (A) Every person can frustrate God’s decree is contrary to (E) No person can frustrate God’s decree
    (A) Every person can frustrate God’s decree entails (I) Some person can frustrate God’s decree
    (A) Every person can frustrate God’s decree contradicts (O) Some person can not frustrate God’s decree
    (E) No person can frustrate God’s decree entails (O) Some person can not frustrate God’s decree
    (E) No person can frustrate God’s decree contradicts (I) Some person can frustrate God’s decree

    Thus, it is a contradiction to say that (I) a person can frustrate God’s decree (choose Y) and also say (E) No person can frustrate God’s decree (not choose X). And it is contrary to (E) to say (A). To avoid contradictions and contraries it must be admitted that a person cannot choose Y. And if that is the case they do not have the ability to choose between alternatives.

    • Hi Mike:

      I have to attend to a camping activity today. I’ll shoot my responses once my schedule is free.

      For some points:

      You said:
      You assume decrees as the basis of FK and thus whenever Scripture affirms the FK of an event you conclude that there is a foreordained decree behind it and thus the passage supports the Reformed view.

      Response:
      I gave reasons why I consider DD (divine decree) is the basis of FK. I also provided Scripture references. For example, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). In this passage, you see that God predetermined (made certain) the actions of free agents and yet these are free actions. This is the reason why prophetic utterances never fails. As to the philosophical reason: “The Arminian… asserts that God can foreknow an uncertainty, that is, that he can have foreknowledge without foreordination. But in this case, there is in reality nothing to be foreknown; there is no object of foreknowledge. If the question be asked “what does God foreknow?” and the answer be that he foreknows that a particular volition will be a holy one, the reply is that so far as the divine decree is concerned the volition may prove to be a sinful one. In this case, God’s foreknowledge is a conjecture only, not knowledge. It is like a man’s guess. If, on the contrary, the answer be that God foreknows that the volition will be a sinful one, the reply is that it may prove to be a holy one. In this case, also, God’s foreknowledge is only a conjecture. To know or to foreknow an uncertainty is a solecism. For in order to either knowledge or foreknowledge, there must be only one actual thing to be known or foreknown. But in the supposed case of contingency and uncertainty, there are two possible things, either of which may turn out to be an object of knowledge, but neither of which is the one certain and definite object required. There is, therefore, nothing knowable in the case. To know or foreknow an uncertainty is to know or foreknow a nonentity. If it be objected, that since God, as eternal, decrees all things simultaneously and consequently there is really no foreordination for him, it is still true that in the logical order an event must be a certainty before it can be known as such. Though there be no order of time and succession, yet in the order of nature, a physical event or a human volition must be decreed and certain for God that it may be cognized by him as an event or a volition.” W.G.T. Shedd, Divine Decree

      You said:
      What renders the choice as being certain is Peter doing it. And what made the decision free is Peter’s self-determined choice to deny Christ over the alternative of choosing to align with Him.

      Response:
      From a chronological point of view, when Jesus told Peter that he would deny him, he hasn’t chosen to deny him. By making the “certainty” of that choice contigent upon Peter not on God’ decree would mean that Peter already exist in the future making that choice and God was watching him making that choice. This is the reason why I said, if we have to ask why God can declare the future to be, the transcendent cause is God’s will. Foreknowledge does not make an event certain but merely acknowledges what is certain. In other words, God knows all actual events in the future not because these events have an existence outside God’s will but because God willed them to be.

      You said:
      God willed that people have the freedom to make choices according to their own will. But this of course is not the same as saying that God has decreed what the choices of each person will actually be, only that His will is that people can make them within His creation.

      Response:
      I believe what you are saying here. The problem is that, God knows with certainty each action that is going to happen in his world befor he created it. Before the secondary agents exists, in his mind, they already made a choice and it is certain. That certainty is immutable. How can the choices be made certain if the secondary agent performing that choice does not yet exist? Thus, from a reformed perspective, since Scripture tells us that only God is eternal and that God knows with certainty the choices of secondary agents before he created them and that God works all things according to counsel of his will therefore that certainty rests on his DD.

      You said:
      Actually, some Reformed theologians are willing to admit that a script is a fair analogy to describe divine determinism

      Response:
      In some ways the script analogy is a good analogy. It analogises that all events have certainty contigent to the mind of God alone not on the secondary agents. It is not however an analogy of the mechanics on how God makes the choices certain; for scripting by humans entails mechanical dictation for the events to be. God is not limited to such process to make an event certain.

      You said:
      Most Calvinists reject these two aspects of FW and adopt a compatibilistic definition of “free will”.

      Response:
      Don’t get me wrong. I am a compatibilist. We view freewill from two perspectives. From God’s perspective all actions have certainty. That is why when he predetermined that Christ be crucified, actions by Herod and Pontius Pilate, Israel and the Gentiles were made certain. Do they have the power to contradict what God has predetermined that they would do? So Judas and Peter. From God’s perspective the choices have been made and no secondary agent can frustrate it. But from a creaturely perspective, they are presented with a choice. They have to make a self determined choice according to their nature, desires and being. God renders that choice certain in his DD, it doesn’t remove the secondary agent’s making a choice according to his nature, desires and being. How God makes it certain is unknown to us. That the choice was freely made is what we can derive in Scripture.

      We would have to derive our logic from God’s perspective and the creaturely perspective. To mix the two would not be sound. The divide between God and creature is immensely great that our creaturely logic can not account for all premises to arrive at the conclusion that Scripture presents.

      God bless.

      Regards,
      Joey Henry

      • Hi Mike,

        Camping was great! Come visit Sydney!

        Here some of thoughts from your questions.

        You said:
        Specifically do you agree with my response: that the solution as presented on Dr. Kruger’s blog makes God’s “want” that none perish a good intention that was not acted upon?

        Response:
        From what I know the Scripture reveals, you are correct that God’s desire ultimately is to effectively save only the elect by regenerating them and freeing them from the condemnation and bondage of sin. He chose not to save all though he feels sadness and sorrow for those that perish (anthropomorphical language).

        The term you use to refer on this subservient desire of God is “good intention”. I am not inclined to use this term as it might connote that God intended to save all but failed to do so. God feels sorrow and deep sadness for the one that perish. It doesn’t mean that he intended to save all individuals in the death and resurrection of Christ. He loves everyone as his creatures but he doesn’t love everyone in a redemptive category. This might be the reason why God reveals to us sorrow and sadness for those that perish because he loves them though not redemptively. This kinds of love is understandable even at a creaturely level. We love our wife differently from a good neighbor. In the same manner, God’s love for everyone is muti faceted. He loves everyone but not in a redemptive way. He has a special love for his church, his elect. Thus, I could accomodate the language of sorriw and sadness of God when someone perishes because he loves them as his creation. But it is not redemptive love that would move him to intend to save them.

        The second issue is the phrase “not acted upon”. I agreed with this phrase. But there might be a baggage lurking behind that phrase that I want to address. The saving efficacy of the Cross is offered to all people. God intended the Gospel to be preached to all. The gospel has a genuine offer in that if one truly believes he will find Christ to be a sufficient saviour. The Cross therefore is God’s action procalimed to everyone. The one who hears it has all the instruments to make a decision for the gospel — brain, desire, emotion, conscience, etc… but all of these instruments are enslaved by sin. Though the sinner has all the instruments to decide for the gospel, he will always desire to reject it and rebel against God. From a reformed perspective, God has to free us from the bondage of sin and replace our stone hearts to a heart of flesh that we may call upon the Lord and be saved. We believe this act of God is effective and results to saving faith. In this case, God has acted through the Cross which offer extends to everyone. However, all will reject the offer because of sin. God deemed, in his wise counsel, to intervene in the hearts of some people, not on account of anything they have done or will do but on account of his mercy, to save them.

        God has acted through the cross and the offer stands to everyone. But he had acted specially on both of us Mike. He further changed our hearts so that we will not reject the gospel where left to our own, we would have rebelled against his command: Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. We did this not on account of anything we do or will do. He did this out of his mercy. Why us? I don’t know. I could only bow down in worship in gratitude of the one who saved me… and fear at what he can do to those who reject him. He both gives life and death. Both gracious and severe. For that, he deserves my worship.

        I hope this helps.

        Regards,
        Joey Henry

  14. Joey

    Would love to (re)visit the land down under. Have been to Melbourne twice.

    I am not inclined to use this term as it might connote that God intended to save all but failed to do so.

    In the Reformed view it is clear that God did not intend to save all, only the elect. What is at issue is what God means when He says that He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4) and He is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).

    Unlike your view, in which you limit the term “all” to mean either “all types of people” or “all the elect”, neither Kruger nor I make that distinction. So I am not sure if you are defending your position or his.

    If you are willing to call God’s desire for all to be saved in my view a “good intention” because God’s acting desire was to preserve free will then consistency would lead one to believe you would also call Kruger’s view a good intention as God’s desire was to save some not all.

    Kruger does not offer up “kinds of love” only “kinds of wills”. The crux of my response is this: in the position articulated by Kruger God has two desires: to save all people AND to not save all people. God acts only on the latter when He unconditionally elects some and not all.

    God has acted through the cross and the offer stands to everyone. … The saving efficacy of the Cross is offered to all people. The gospel has a genuine offer in that if one truly believes he will find Christ to be a sufficient saviour.

    I agree with this, and it is why I would argue that the view I presented as the Arminian view (option #2) is not a good intention. God wants to save all and made a way to save all. But He allows people to accept (w/ enabling grace) or reject His offer.

    Examining this opens up a new line of discussion from the Reformed view.

    But, in a nutshell, I don’t see how the gospel can be a genuine offer within Reformed Calvinism. When the offer is made the person – if they are unelect – cannot be saved. We can argue that it is because they don’t want to but this is related to an unchangeable decree. A decree that states that they will remain reprobate and perish for God’s glory. A decree that was not based on foresight that the person would reject God but was purposed ahead of time. The person cannot be saved because God did not want to save them. This is even more challenging if Christ only dies for the sins of the elect (and not for the reprobate) as limited/particular atonement (L in TULIP) holds. For then the unelect person would not have had their sins covered. And asking them to believe that Christ died for them would be asking them to believe an untruth.

    God has to free us from the bondage of sin and replace our stone hearts to a heart of flesh that we may call upon the Lord and be saved. … left to our own, we would have rebelled against his command

    Both Calvinists & Arminians affirm this.

    We believe this act of God is effective and results to saving faith

    Arminians reject the irresistible aspect of the grace that accompanies the Gospel message and works on the unbelieving hearer.

  15. Joey:

    Looking over your last comment (before today). Hope this helps as I think we have a good overlap of where we see free will and also where we differ.

    Arminian… asserts that God can foreknow an uncertainty … To know or to foreknow an uncertainty is a solecism.

    Wait are you applying logic as the basis for rejecting my interpretation. I didn’t think that was allowed. 🙂

    The assigning of a value of true or false to a future contingent act is something that is debated within philosophical circles. Some argue that premises describing future contingent acts are undetermined and don’t have a value to know. But others would argue that the premise describing a future contingent act has a value. The value is true if in the future the premise will be true and false if in the future the premise will be false. The fact that we don’t know it yet does not mean it has no value. Nor does God knowing its truth value mean that He “causes” it nor renders it certain.

    In the end you are willing to accept the contradiction of a person having self-determined choices within a framework of divine determinism – and – the mystery of how God can work in self-determined people so that their choice always comes up the way He decreed.

    The problem is that, God knows with certainty each action that is going to happen in his world befor he created it.

    I am willing to struggle with the difficulty of how God can know future contingent acts.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am a compatibilist.

    I am surprised. From your comments I would have seen you as closer to a Libertarian Calvinist. You seem to include in your definition of FW the self-determination of a person (ie agent causation) and the actual ability to choose alternatives (ie contingent choice). These are not characteristics of compatibilist FW.

    Here is a Calvinist blogger examining the ideas of FW within divine determinism. Though it appears that the book he interacts with would define FW differently than you do. The Calvinist he interacts with would assess FW more in line with how I would.

    free choices require the ability to do otherwise and therefore cannot be determined by prior factors (such as God’s decree)

    I assume you would reject the second part.

    However, the blogger writes this of the WCF and FW (emphasis in original):

    The Confession is clear that God ordains or decrees (the two terms are treated as equivalent) whatsoever comes to pass, i.e., all events within the creation. Crisp observes that divine ordination as such doesn’t entail divine causal determinism; in principle God could ordain some events without determining them (e.g., he could ordain them by passive divine permission). However, the Confession also states that God’s decree doesn’t depend on knowledge of what will or could take place, or knowledge of what would take place if certain conditions were met (i.e., knowledge of hypothetical conditionals of the form if X were to occur then Y would also occur). The central thrust of WCF 3.2 is that God’s decree isn’t conditioned, even in part, on factors within the creation that are independent of him, factors that do not find their ultimate origin in him (which would include, of course, libertarian free-will choices). God alone is the source of his eternal decree; God doesn’t ‘consult’ anything extra se when he formulates his decree.

    He goes on to quote the Westminster Larger Catechism on effectual calling as a good definition of compatibilism and says that this is the same way God works in all choices:

    … [God is] renewing and powerfully determining their wills … hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call

    I reject compatibilism and its assertion that a “powerfully determined will” is in fact “free”.

    • Hi Mike,

      Visit Sydney too… 🙂

      Here are my thoughts:

      You said:
      What is at issue is what God means when He says that He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4) and He is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).

      Response:
      I’ll have to ask Dr. Kruger on how he views the word “all” exegetically on those two passages. In the article though, he mentioned Ezekiel if I remeber it right. That is why I focused my response on the language of sorrow and sadness for those who perish and why that is an appropriate language even with unconditioal election.

      This is what Dr. Kruger’s conclusion:

      In the end, therefore, there is no contradiction between the doctrine of election and the fact that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. For this reason the second half of Ezekiel 18:23 is true: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declare the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

      You said:
      The crux of my response is this: in the position articulated by Kruger God has two desires: to save all people AND to not save all people.

      Response:
      Diferent categories of desire as motivated by different kinds of love love is not equivalent to intention.

      You said:
      God wants to save all and made a way to save all. But He allows people to accept (w/ enabling grace) or reject His offer.

      Response:
      This is also is true in my view.

      You said:
      But, in a nutshell, I don’t see how the gospel can be a genuine offer within Reformed Calvinism. When the offer is made the person – if they are unelect – cannot be saved. We can argue that it is because they don’t want to but this is related to an unchangeable decree.

      Response:
      There is a relationship between DD and the choices of the secondary agent. But we don’t have the mechanics to account on how the DD of God makes the choice certain. Yet we do not deny that it the choice is self-determined. In a way, even in your system you still have to account for how God’s knowledge of our choices are certain and immutable in eternity past. If the secondary agent hasn’t existed yet and yet God knows with certainty what his choices are, how can that person have libertarian freewill when presented with the situation of making a choice? Can he render God’s foreknowledge fallible? If not, then you’ll be dealing with the same problem that you posed against DD.

      I think the problem on both our theology is our acceptance that God’s FK of the future is certain. I ground it in DD. You ground it on non-existent secondary agents. Both will pose problems on LFW. The only consistent theology that can successfully defend LFW is Openness Theology. It is the denial that God knows with certainty the choices of secondary agents in eternity past. I hope you’ll not go that route.

      You said:
      Arminians reject the irresistible aspect of the grace that accompanies the Gospel message and works on the unbelieving hearer.

      Reaponse:
      I would call it effective aspect rather than irresistible.

      You said:
      Wait are you applying logic as the basis for rejecting my interpretation. I didn’t think that was allowed.

      Response:
      I only cautioned you (and myself) to make our creaturely logic subservient to Scriptural revelation. As a theologian, part of my axiom is Scriptural truth not just the conventional logical axiom. I said we could not account for all premises to arrive at some Scriptural revelation. We allow for mysteries to take place in our christian faith. Thus, when you wrote — To avoid contradictions and contraries it must be admitted that a person cannot choose Y. And if that is the case they do not have the ability to choose between alternatives. — it seems to me from Scriptural data that a person can not choose Y not because he has no ability between alternatives. He has infact the brain, desires, conscience, consciousness, etc to make contrary choices but the person chooses according to his nature. God from eternity past makes certain the choices of free creatures in his DD but not in a mechanical robotic way. Thus, we confess, “Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.”

      You said:
      In the end you are willing to accept the contradiction of a person having self-determined choices within a framework of divine determinism.

      Response:
      I don’t see it as a contradiction. I accept it as Scriptural revelation just like the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union. Remember, I derive from Scripture my conclusions simply because my creaturely logic could not account for all premises to arrive at the right conclusion. I see God’s decrees in Scripture. I see it most on the Cross. I also see the choices of people and that it is presented by the Scriptural authors as their choices.

      You said:
      You seem to include in your definition of FW the self-determination of a person (ie agent causation) and the actual ability to choose alternatives (ie contingent choice). These are not characteristics of compatibilist FW.

      Response:
      I don’t think the factors you’ve mentioned are not characteristics of compatibilism. The main difference between a compatibilist and non-compatinilist is LFW. We believe in natural freewill that is why we are not denying self determination and actual ability to choose alternatives. But these choices are ordered according to our nature. LFW by definition “means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God.” That’s the standard definition of LFW that I know which I reject.

      Regards,
      Joey Henry

      • Would like to see Sydney one day.

        In the end, therefore, there is no contradiction between the doctrine of election and the fact that God does not delight in the death of the wicked.

        I was not examining the dispositional will (as Kruger labeled it) regarding whether God had conflicted emotions. I was examining the dispositional and decretive wills which seemed to be the primary wills involved in his proposed solution.

        Kruger’s conclusion was: When these three “wills” of God are considered, we can see that God, from one perspective, does not “want” (dispositional will) the wicked to perish. But, from another perspective, God has decreed that some will be saved and some will not (decretive will).

        I don’t know how Dr. Kruger would exegete the word “all” in these passages. In his solution he does not rely on narrowing the meaning of the word “all” to solve the challenge. In fact the quote above implies that he would see “all” in the dispositional will as meaning every person.

        Diferent categories of desire as motivated by different kinds of love love is not equivalent to intention

        The thrust of my OP/response was just that. The desire to save all was not acted upon.

        You agreed with this statement:
        You said:
        God wants to save all and made a way to save all. But He allows people to accept (w/ enabling grace) or reject His offer.

        Are you allowing that a person who has received efficacious/irresistible grace can resist and reject the gospel?

        the person chooses according to his nature.

        You would have to flush that out some more. Most comaptibilists accept the idea that contingent determined choices is a contradiction. They instead argue that the nature directs to one choice and only one choice.

        LFW by definition “means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God.” That’s the standard definition of LFW that I know which I reject.

        Nature, will, heart, these are all terms that are rather tough to pin down. That said I believe that contingent choices are determined by the person in the will. And that this aspect of decision making must be free from being predetermined and made effective by another agent. Thus I would disagree with the phrase “free from the determination or constraints of human nature” depending on what was meant. The decision is not free from the human nature (genetics, abilities, fallen etc), circumstances, and other factors. These and other things all influence the decision but they don’t make it.

        I don’t see it as a contradiction.

        It clearly was shown to be. You can choose to accept it as true but you can’t deny that logically it is a contradiction.

        As a theologian, part of my axiom is Scriptural truth not just the conventional logical axiom.

        My views are also bounded by Scripture. However, as I wrestle with various interpretations I use logic (as well as history) to try to arrive at which is correct. And given we are both reasoning with one another, I would venture to say that using logic and reason to arrive at truth/accept an interpretation is something we both do.

        you still have to account for how God’s knowledge of our choices are certain and immutable in eternity past.

        God has not told us how He knows the future. There are various ideas proposed as to how it could be. But they are speculative. However, whether a contingent future decision has a truth value or not is not a contradiction (as logic would define it). It is a debated idea.

        You might enjoy a discussion underway here regarding FK and truth values of future events as posed by Steve Hays.

        If the secondary agent hasn’t existed yet and yet God knows with certainty what his choices are, how can that person have libertarian freewill when presented with the situation of making a choice? Can he render God’s foreknowledge fallible?

        God knows the choice. He did not determine it, nor have to ensure that every choice is made according to His plan. The person does not choose what God knows. God knows what the person will choose. The person does not have to choose according to FK, God has to FK according to what the person chooses.

      • Hi Mike,

        You said:
        The thrust of my OP/response was just that. The desire to save all was not acted upon.

        Response:
        It seemed that you agree that desire is not equivalent to intention. That is the reason why I am hesitant to use “good intention” because God did not intend to save all in the he chose world he actualised. Further, I agreed already on the phrase “was not acted upon” but I have to qualify it. My agreement pertains to the nature of God’s redemptive act, i.e. God did not choose to effect his redemptive action to all. But, on the other hand, he chose to act to offer the Gospel to all. He acted through the Cross where everyone is invited will find the promise true. But according to the nature of unredeemed man, without his redemptive action, all will reject him. This is the reason why I said he has acted specially on both of us redemptively. He acted commonly to everyone through the offer of the Cross but specially to the elect for their redemption.

        You said:
        Are you allowing that a person who has received efficacious/irresistible grace can resist and reject the gospel?

        Response:
        From God’s perspective the answer is no. Since his FK of choices is certain, there is no way the secondary agent will choose otherwise from what he already FK (prior to the secondary agents existense). From the secondary agents perspective, he has choose once God’s FK is actualised in time. At that moment of choosing, there is a possible world that was not actualised, i.e. the contrary choice from FK. It is a possible world that could have been. The creature possesses the brain function, desires, conscience, consciousness… all the instruments to make a contrary choice and therefore he has the ability to choose otherwise. But, he will not choose otherwise. The secondary choice as foreknown by God is certain. I ground that certainty in God’s DD. You ground that certainty in a non-existent entity which I find unscriptural.

        You said:
        You would have to flush that out some more. Most comaptibilists accept the idea that contingent determined choices is a contradiction. They instead argue that the nature directs to one choice and only one choice.

        Response:
        Compatibilism, in contrast to Libertarian free will, teaches that people are free, but defines freedom differently. Compatibilism claims that every person chooses according to his or her greatest desire. In other words, people will always choose what they want– and what they want is determined by (and consistent with) their moral nature. Man freely makes choices, but those choices are determined by the condition of his heart and mind (i.e. his moral nature). Libertarian free will maintains that for any choice made, one could always equally have chosen otherwise, or not chosen at all.

        You said:
        It clearly was shown to be. You can choose to accept it as true but you can’t deny that logically it is a contradiction.

        Response:
        If I have no divine revelation in Scripture, I would agree with you. All your premises will lead to your conclusion. But as I said, we can not account for all premises and the reason I said for saying that is because Scripture gave us example after example of God’s decree making certain the events of human will and yet the Scriptural writers portray their actions as self determined. I gave one very clear example through the Cross.

        You said:
        My views are also bounded by Scripture. However, as I wrestle with various interpretations I use logic (as well as history) to try to arrive at which is correct.

        Response:
        We both use reason that is true. But our reason is not ultimate. What was revealed becomes part of our axiom. For example, when Jesus said where two or three are gathered in his name, he will be in the midst of them. That is not logically possible in the created order. But, Scripture reveals that Jesus nature as diety entails omnipresence. Thus from that revelation, our creaturely logic bows accomodates an axiom revealed in Scripture, i.e. God is omnipresent. Can you prove using the known axioms of logic that “God is omnipresent”? No we can’t. It rather becomes part of our axiom.

        You said:
        God has not told us how He knows the future.

        Response:
        But you are sure that God didn’t decreed the future to be. If we don’t know then at least you are an agnostic about God’s decree. But it seems that you are rather certain about it.

        You said:
        God knows the choice. He did not determine it, nor have to ensure that every choice is made according to His plan.

        Response:
        Here again from ignorance of how God knows the future, you know claim certainty that it could not be via DD. The theological and philosophical problem of denying DD is immense as I have explained, you will grounding the certainty of God’s FK in a non-existent entity and you are limiting God’s capability to create possible worlds that he could have wanted but could not due to this non-existent entity im eternity past. That is hard to swallow theologically and philosophically.

        Regards,
        Joey Henry

  16. Joey

    Merry Christmas!

    …he has the ability to choose otherwise.

    So am I to assume that the preceding grace that God grants is not irresistible (as most Calvinists and TULIP would teach) and does not regenerate the person prior to a response of faith?

    I ground that certainty in God’s DD.

    Given the alternatives set before them and the freedom to choose any of them, what makes the person choose according to the decree every time they make a decision?

    Scripture reveals that Jesus nature as diety entails omnipresence. Thus from that revelation, our creaturely logic bows

    God being omnipresent is not a contradiction. A contingent choice and a deterministic system are.

    The theological and philosophical problem of denying DD is immense

    Actually the theological and philosophical problems for DD are far greater. As we have seen a clear contradiction must be accepted regarding contingent choices. This is clear and thus many adherents of DD deny contingent choices in favor of a compatibilistic explanation that accepts all choices as both being determined to a single outcome and that outcome being the one thing the person wanted. However, the challenge then is defending moral responsibility for a person’s determined choice.

    Since it seems you accepted the script analogy for DD then it should be clear that God not only permits all the evil that occurs, but designs it into human history. It is logical, given DD, to conclude that God is thus the “author” of evil at least in the sense that it every bit of it that occurs was pre-designed, purposed, and written out by Him before anyone or anything existed.

    We do know (according to WCF) that God did not “foresee future acts”. Thus evil can’t be attributed to the will of rebellious man who misuses the God given freedom to make choices, at least not alone. It must be attributed to the will of God who decreed all the evil that occurs.

    We don’t know how God insures all the decrees He made actually occur, but it would seem reasonable (philosophically sound) to conclude that God must be at work in making sure all occurs just as He wrote it out ahead of time. This further complicates a theodicy for the Reformed system.

    The choice to save some and leave the rest to perish is another challenge to DD. A decree to save some and to let others perish is contrary to the expressed will of God who repeatedly asserts that He wants none to perish. This was the main topic of the OP. DD means that God creates people who by design can never receive salvation. They were made “vessels of wrath” rather than of honor. An unchangeable decree rendered the fate of all who perish certain. And in this case we know (according to Reformed theology) that God insured that the decree was carried out by withholding mercy and not drawing or “bending the will” so the person would come and accept Him.

    Finally, the extant writings of the church (prior to Augustine) wrote in favor of simple FK and divine providence that did not include the determinism of the Reformed system.

    These challenges far outweigh the problem of “God’s FK in a non-existent” entity’s action.

  17. Hi Micheal,

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    You said:
    So am I to assume that the preceding grace that God grants is not irresistible (as most Calvinists and TULIP would teach) and does not regenerate the person prior to a response of faith?

    Response:
    I sense that you might be importing an idea of the word “irresistible” that is not taught by most Calvinist. That idea is the notion that God acted against the creature’s nature, desire and will. The term “irresistible” only refers to the effectiveness of God’s redemptive grace to save. It does not refer to the mechanism on how that effectiveness was brought about. I believe that God’s grace works through the nature and desires of sinful man so that he will use his natural freedom to obey the Gospel command. I also believe that God regenerates the the sinner before he can confess Jesus is Lord. This Scripture teaches us that, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised…” (1 Cor 4:16). The only reason the natural man accepts the things of God is because he has been born of God. John tells us, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 Jo 5:4). The ultimate reason why a person is born of God is not our ntural will but God’s. John said that those who became children of God are “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13).

    You said:
    Given the alternatives set before them and the freedom to choose any of them, what makes the person choose according to the decree every time they make a decision?

    Response:
    From our creauturely perspective, our ultimate desires made us choose among the alternatives. From God’s perspectives, in eternity past, our self-determined choices has been made certain in God’s Divine Decree.

    You said:
    God being omnipresent is not a contradiction. A contingent choice and a deterministic system are.

    Response:
    You are correct that God being omnipresent is not a contradiction. My point is that such proposition is a revelation such that as a Christian, it becomes part of our axiom when we reason. Because Scripture reveals that God, in his DD, making certain the action of men does not contradict the reality of man’s natural freedom as asecondary agent; then, such proposition becomes an axiom of how we reason. The Scripture gives us a glimpse of this proposition through the Cross (Acts 4:28).

    You said:
    Actually the theological and philosophical problems for DD are far greater.

    Response:
    Objection 1. As we have seen a clear contradiction must be accepted regarding contingent choices.

    Response: Only if we set aside divine revelation.

    Objection 2. Since it seems you accepted the script analogy for DD then it should be clear that God not only permits all the evil that occurs, but designs it into human history.

    Response: Here’s what I said regarding the script analogy: In some ways the script analogy is a good analogy. It analogises that all events have certainty in the mind of God alone not on the secondary agents. It is not however an analogy of the mechanichism on how God makes the choices certain; for scripting by humans entails mechanical dictation for the events to be. God is not limited to such process to make an event certain.

    Objection 3. It is logical, given DD, to conclude that God is thus the “author” of evil at least in the sense that it every bit of it that occurs was pre-designed, purposed, and written out by Him before anyone or anything existed.

    Response: From Jonathan Edwards: “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.” But, if what you mean is purposed evil and redemption in his creation, then yes, God is in fact the “author” of evil. I do not believe in a dualistic universe in that evil sponteneously exist outside of God’s providence. Now if God, being God, purposed evil in his creation, would that make him evil? The Scripture denies such conclusion.

    You said:
    Thus evil can’t be attributed to the will of rebellious man who misuses the God given freedom to make choices, at least not alone. It must be attributed to the will of God who decreed all the evil that occurs.

    Response:
    Only when we view DD in a linear mode. But the Scripture denies the causality of evil in a linear fashion. It always attributes evil to the secondary agent but it also never denies that choices of the secondary agent are made certain in his DD. We’ve always said that we have not been given revelation on how the DD of God makes certain the action of the secondary agebt so that we are ill-equipped to make a conclusion using our creaturely logic. We rely only on the axiom given by Scripture.

    You said:
    The choice to save some and leave the rest to perish is another challenge to DD. A decree to save some and to let others perish is contrary to the expressed will of God who repeatedly asserts that He wants none to perish.

    Response: Here’s some bilibal data that we need to analyse:

    God opposes hatred toward his people, yet ordained that his people be hated in Egypt (Genesis 12:3; Psalm 105:25—“He turned their hearts to hate his people”).

    He hardens Pharaoh’s heart, but commands him to let his people go (Exodus 4:21; 5:1; 8:1).

    He makes plain that it is sin for David to take a military census of his people, but he ordains that he do it (2 Samuel 24:1; 24:10).

    He opposes adultery, but ordains that Absalom should lie with his father’s wives (Exodus 20:14; 2 Samuel 12:11).

    He forbids rebellion and insubordination against the king, but ordained that Jeroboam and the ten tribes should rebel against Rehoboam (Romans 13:1; 1 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 12:15-16).

    He opposes murder, but ordains the murder of his Son (Exodus 20:13; Acts 4:28).

    He desires all men to be saved, but effectually calls only some (1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Corinthians 1:26-30; 2 Timothy 2:26) — granting without agreeing that “all” means all individuals without distinction.

    Now you might say that some actions of God contradict another set of revelation. But this is where we need to distinguish God’s will as Dr. Kruger has done so. The Scripture forces us to deduce that God’s will have different facets in it to avoidsaying that God is a contradiction.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

    • Joey:

      I sense that you might be importing an idea of the word “irresistible” that is not taught by most Calvinist.

      The I in TULIP does stand for “irresistible”. And the Synod of Dort says it “bring[s] [the elect] infallibly to salvation”. (2nd Head.8). I don’t think I am importing any ideas here as I will try to show.

      That idea is the notion that God acted against the creature’s nature, desire and will. The term “irresistible” only refers to the effectiveness of God’s redemptive grace to save.

      At some point, in the Reformed view, God does act against the person’s will. Consider: the natural man can only resist and rebel against God (T in TULIP). When God acts to regenerate the natural person (I in TULIP) and transforms their will to accept Him it is a monergistic act. This change in the person’s will (stone to flesh) was against what they wanted, otherwise the doctrine of inability falls because the person wanted God prior to the effectual grace. It is only after they are regenerated, thus having a new will, that people can “freely” choose to accept God.

      It does not refer to the mechanism on how that effectiveness was brought about.

      Reformed theology is pretty clear about the mechanisms involved in this process of salvation.

      During the process in which the elect receive effectual grace they are “passive” (WCF X.2) until they are renewed and “enabled to embrace the grace offered”. During this process not only are people enlightened to understand but they have their wills renewed (WCF X.1) which “effectually draw[s] them to Jesus”. The person’s will is “made willing” so that the result is a person can “come most freely”.

      This resulting faith is called an “infallible fruit” (Dort Head 1.12) that occurs by His “almighty power”. A power described by Dort as God using the “powers of His omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man’s will to faith and conversion” (Head 3 & 4 para 8). Dort rejects the idea that it “remains in man’s power to be regenerated or not.”

      Here is what Dort says in Head 3 & 4.14:

      Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure, but because it is in reality conferred upon him, breathed and infused into him; nor even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will consent to the terms of salvation and actually believe in Christ, but because He who works in man both to will and to work, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.

      I will only quickly touch on your other points.

      . I also believe that God regenerates the the sinner before he can confess Jesus is Lord.

      It will come as no surprise that I would argue against this. It is true that a natural man does not accept spiritual things, but Scripture can make one wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:15) and a person can be convicted and enlightened to understanding by the grace of God (John 16:5-11; 1 John 5:20). He can then accept these things or resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) and reject them. If the person expresses faith in God and His promises (Heb 11:6) and accepts the offer of salvation in Christ that person is placed in Christ (1 Cor 12:13). And all in Christ are forgiven of their sins, adopted as sons, and regenerated or given new life for life is in the Son. He who has the Son has life and he who does not have the Son does not have life (1 John 5:11-12). Can one have new life without the Son? And can one receive the Son without faith?

      From our creauturely perspective, our ultimate desires made us choose among the alternatives. From God’s perspectives, in eternity past, our self-determined choices has been made certain in God’s Divine Decree. … scripting … entails mechanical dictation for the events to be. God is not limited to such process to make an event certain.

      My point here is that it is amazing that all our desires always match what God decreed. If there is no active mechanism of some sort to insure a match then those are amazing odds. Given the clear example of how salvation works, in which God directly acts to insure that His decree (the salvation of the unconditionally elect) comes about (pouring out effectual grace on elect and not on the reprobate), we are left to wonder how this occurs.

      Only if we set aside divine revelation.

      You imply that in rejecting conclusions that are contradictory in the Reformed view I must be setting aside Scripture. What I am doing is setting aside a particular Augustinian/Reformed interpretation of the Scripture but not the Scripture itself.

      You provide a list of Scriptures and interpret determinism (w/o FK) behind them. These verses do not explicitly teach DD, though they are written so that they allow that reading if you hold that presupposition. They could also be highlighting God providentially working in His creation and responding to people as they make choices.

      Did God decree that Absalom lie with David’s wives before the foundation of the world without foresight of any of the acts of people — or — did God remove His restraining hand of protection and allow Absalom to fulfill his sinful desires with them, an act He foresaw would occur?

  18. Hi Mike,

    I hope you are well. How’s Christmas? Mine was great… 🙂 Thanks for your response above. I’ll be brief.

    You said:
    At some point, in the Reformed view, God does act against the person’s will. Consider: the natural man can only resist and rebel against God (T in TULIP). When God acts to regenerate the natural person (I in TULIP) and transforms their will to accept Him it is a monergistic act. This change in the person’s will (stone to flesh) was against what they wanted, otherwise the doctrine of inability falls because the person wanted God prior to the effectual grace. It is only after they are regenerated, thus having a new will, that people can “freely” choose to accept God.

    Response:
    I guess you confuse a person’s nature and a person’s will. What you are describing here is God’s power to effectively change the person’s nature (from being dead to sin to regeneration). Thus, God will act against the person’s will if he did not change their nature first. That means, there is a rebel who, against all his wishes, was dragged in to the kingdom screaming and kicking. But God changes the nature of man first so that his will and desires are effectively enabled to call on the name of the Lord and enter his Kingdom with joy, humility and gratitude. When God changes our nature, he enlightens our mind, convincing us of our need of the Saviour and giving us clarity of our disposition not just once in time but as he works out our salvation. Through this process, our wills and desires follow that which our mind and reason grasp, agreeing with God and his Gospel as he reveal it to us.

    You said:
    He can then accept these things or resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) and reject them.

    Response:
    I hope you see that what you wrote in this section is no argument against what I said. It accommodates everything that you’ve said. The only caveat is your insistence that once God renews our heart, it is not effectual and it could fail. In other words, you are willing to say that the power of God to save depends on our will, whether or not, we grant him the ability to save us. You mentioned Acts 7:51 as a support in saying that God’s redemptive grace is effectual. However, we do not deny that the natural man resist the things of God. And what we see in Acts 7:51 is a picture of a people who is in need of God’s redemptive grace. Without it, they always will resist the Holy Spirit and perish. But the good news is, God is not limited nor held captive by our resistance. He has the power to save and stop our rebellion. The good news, Mike, is that like the Jews, we could have resisted the Holy Spirit given our nature. How couldn’t we? We are sons of disobedience… But God in his grace chose you, me and a remnant so that at the proper time, “those who are ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48).

    You said:
    My point here is that it is amazing that all our desires always match what God decreed. If there is no active mechanism of some sort to insure a match then those are amazing odds.

    Response:
    Mike, our God doesn’t deal with odds. He is the God of the impossible. I encourage you to have a vision of God that is much greater than your “logic” so that you can worship him with unlimited awe.

    You said:
    You imply that in rejecting conclusions that are contradictory in the Reformed view I must be setting aside Scripture. What I am doing is setting aside a particular Augustinian/Reformed interpretation of the Scripture but not the Scripture itself.

    Response:
    Alright. Let’s see then how you exegete Acts 4:28. I mean, you can label our exegesis any term that you want: Augustinian, Calvinistic, or others. But, the only thing that matters is what does Scripture say. If you believe that you have a better system that accounts for all of the Scriptural data regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom, I am willing to listen. But so far, what you have are assumptions without Scriptural revelation. Your system demands limitation on God on which he has not in anyway give us revelation on such limitation. I have already given you several passages to reflect on. I hope you’ll pursue a theology of the Word, not of Philosophy.

    You said:
    They could also be highlighting God providentially working in His creation and responding to people as they make choices.

    Response:
    Yes they are showing that. But our topic goes beyond time. We are talking about eternity past. Do you think in eternity past God was responding to people as they make choices? If that was the case, you must posit that these people have eternal existence. But since, I believe that you are not willing to believe this, then in eternity past there is nothing to respond to by God as there were no people who are making choices or made choices. Given that his FK is infallible then his knowledge of people’s choices as he chose to create them are certain. That certainty is grounded on God’s mind alone not on non-existent beings in eternity past. That certainty is grounded in his DD.

    You said:
    Did God decree that Absalom lie with David’s wives before the foundation of the world without foresight of any of the acts of people — or — did God remove His restraining hand of protection and allow Absalom to fulfill his sinful desires with them, an act He foresaw would occur?

    Response:
    He has infallible foreknowledge of what Absalom will do in eternity past. His certainty on these events is not based on Absalom as Absalom did not yet exist in eternity past nor made the choice. He is certain that this would happen because of his DD. He also has infallible knowledge on what he will do as his plan unfolds thus he also knows in eternity past that he would remove his restraining hand of protection and will not interfere. He has certainty of his own actions towards Absalom not because of Absalom but because of his DD.

    Happy new year!

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

    • Joey

      Glad you had a great Christmas. Ours was a great time spent with family and our church community. I too will respond briefly.

      I guess you confuse a person’s nature and a person’s will.

      Only if the writers of Dort do. After all they wrote that God uses the “powers of His omnipotence [to] potently and infallibly bend man’s will to faith and conversion”. Notice it is the will, not the nature, that is being acted upon here.

      I will leave you to flush out how you would define man’s nature, and man’s will and then explain how they all work toward the making of a “free” decision particularly under a system constrained by God’s decrees.

      If nature and will are to be seen as two distinct aspects of a person then I would understand the nature as an influence on the will but argue that the will is still the seat of decision making. It may be in our nature to want refined sugar but a person can willfully choose to eat an apple vs. a piece of chocolate cake.

      Thus, God will act against the person’s will if he did not change their nature first.

      The nature would still have been changed against the person’s will.

      But really now we are playing semantics. The decision making aspect of a person (whether one calls it nature or will or heart) is either caused by the agent under a variety of influences or directly acted upon by and thus caused by someone else (in this case God).

      If the nature is that which drives the will to a single decision (ie how most would define compatibilism) then it is still not a person choosing. In this case God powerfully acts to change the nature, which in turn changes the will which effectually produces a response of faith.

      The only caveat is your insistence that once God renews our heart, it is not effectual and it could fail.

      That is what it means to make a decision between two alternatives that is influenced yet not coerced, compelled, or forced. If God’s grace on a person is effectual than there is no other outcome possible and thus not actual decision between two (or more) alternatives.

      Here is something I always wondered about in the Reformed view. If God changes our nature and this work is effectual such that it produces faith then how does sanctification work? Doesn’t that new nature operate the same way after faith to effectually produce fruit? If we have a new nature/heart altered to effectually do what God wants why are many Christian’s entangled in sin?

      In other words, you are willing to say that the power of God to save depends on our will,…

      No. It depends on His will. His will was to save all people and that none perish. His will was to offer salvation to people who could decide to love and accept Him or reject Him. His will was not to effectually decide for people but let them choose this day who they would follow and serve (Deut 30:19; Josh 24:15; Mark 10:21-22; Matt 23:37). So it was His will to allow us to freely choose. Which means, by His will it does depend on our will.

      God, as sovereign, chose to set the condition upon which He would powerfully act to save people. God is the one who will provide the Savior, the means to justly forgive (the cross), the use His power to place us in Christ, regenerate, adopt, justify, and indwell us. We do none of these things.

      The condition God set before us to receive the promises is being in Christ. And that is predicated on our decision to accept (believe, have faith) or reject Christ. He allows us to decide rather than use His power to effectually make the decision for us.

      The good news is God loved me enough to send a Savior willing to die for Joey, and me, and everyone else. Without a Savior we would all be lost. We only have to acknowledge God and trust in Him and His promises (Heb 11:6; John 3:16).

      God doesn’t deal with odds…

      We both worship a God that can do the impossible. We just see that applied differently.

      You advocate that God decrees all AND does not FK based on acts AND does not act to compel any decisions AND that it is possible for contingent decisions. You can surrender the gaps in how this is possible to mystery and attribute it to God doing the impossible but then go on to deny that God can do the impossible of foreknowing the future actions of future people. Seems like a double standard on how we get to apply “doing the impossible”.

      God that is much greater than your “logic” so that you can worship him with unlimited awe

      Come let us reason together… (Isa 1:18)… which is just what we are doing. We (as has been noted) both use logic to exegete Scripture and build out our theology. Which is what God wants us to do. Further, I see God as revealed in creation as one of order and precision and diversity (Rom 1). If we can rely on the natural laws being constant and mathematically describable such that we can predict and confirm things (the Higgs Boson, putting rockets into space) then we can trust that reason and logic should not be abandoned when interpreting the Scripture. Otherwise we can make Scripture mean what ever we want it to mean.

      Alright. Let’s see then how you exegete Acts 4:28.

      No differently than I did Acts 2:23

      But so far, what you have are assumptions without Scriptural revelation.

      Not sure how to take this statement. I guess the references to passages on many of the ideas I have tried to convey don’t count? I have tried to give you numerous passages to consider, just as you have given many to me. The problem is we both hold different interpretations of Scriptural revelation.

      He has infallible foreknowledge of what Absalom will do in eternity past. His certainty on these events is not based on Absalom as Absalom did not yet exist in eternity past nor made the choice. He is certain that this would happen because of his DD. …

      And yet God by virtue of the decree is not the “author” of this sin? If God made the choice before Absalom existed then how is it that Absalom had a “choice”? We both know that in the Reformed view he did not have any ability to deviate from the DD/script.

  19. Hi Mike,

    Glad to hear also your christmas was great! Looking forward to the new year.

    You said:
    Only if the writers of Dort do.

    Response:
    I encourage you to read the whole section to avoid misrepresenting the Canons of Dort.

    Article 3:
    Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.

    Article 16:
    But as man by the fall did not cease to be a creature, endowed with understanding and will, nor did sin which pervaded the whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death; so also this grace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor take away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it; that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience begins to reign; in which the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist. Wherefore unless the admirable author of every good work wrought in us, man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin.

    What you quoted is from the Rejection of Errors VIII. That section explains why God’s grace is effectual. But the way God effectautes such omnipotent power is explained in Article 3 and 16. In article 3, it summarises our belief the nature of fallen man. In Article 16, it tells us how God changes the nature of fallen man. Notice the care that the framers used when explaining this: 1. They were careful enough to say that the “gace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor take away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto”. 2. They describe the regenration as “spiritual quickening”, “healing”, “correction”, “spiritual restoration” — that which is changed is the fallen nature first described as “where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed”. And this nature is where “freedom of our will consist”.

    You said:
    It may be in our nature to want refined sugar but a person can willfully choose to eat an apple vs. a piece of chocolate cake.

    Response:
    Our nature doesn’t just consist of what we want to eat. The Scripture speaks of the fallen nature like this: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8). On the one hand, the fallen nature is set to willingly choose to reject God. The regenerated nature does the opposite. Our nature dictates our ultimate desires and will.

    You said:
    If God’s grace on a person is effectual than there is no other outcome possible and thus not actual decision between two (or more) alternatives.

    Response:
    The certainty of the outcome in God’s perspective does not mean that in the createc order the secondary agent ceases to choose what he wanted. The secondary agent does have many alternatives to choose and he has all the capacity and instruments to make each of those points. But he will ultimately choose that which is according to his nature as his nature grounds his ultimate desires. God’s power to change the nature of man and his certainty on the design of such nature neither does violence to the power of man to choose what he desires. In this worldview, man does choose the things of God contra the things of the world because his nature changes from being dead to sin to being alive in God.

    You said:
    If God changes our nature and this work is effectual such that it produces faith then how does sanctification work? Doesn’t that new nature operate the same way after faith to effectually produce fruit? If we have a new nature/heart altered to effectually do what God wants why are many Christian’s entangled in sin?

    Response:
    Sanctification produces fruit effectually. That is why there is no regenerate man that will not have a transformed life. The process is not instantaneous but it is certain. Ephesians 2:10,” For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” John 15:16 said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”

    You said:
    Which means, by His will it does depend on our will.

    Response:
    I agree with you that he allows us to choose. But it is not libertarian. Our sinful nature will not allow our will to choose God. Our regenerated nature quickens our spirit that we grasp the beauty of the Gospel. When you wrote the sentence above, I encourage you to check to against two passages: John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Romans 9:15-16, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human will or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Both of these passages is outright denial of your assertion.

    You said:
    God can do the impossible of foreknowing the future actions of future people.

    Response:
    I have not denied this contrary to your claim. God can foreknow the future actions of people with certainty. The Scripture affirms this. The question is not about God’s ability to foreknow but how his foreknowledge is certain. It is certain because God ordained it — Divine Decree.

    You said:
    I guess the references to passages on many of the ideas I have tried to convey don’t count?

    Response:
    I am referring to one of the major assumptions of your worldview: God is limited to actuate possible worlds because of man’s libertarian will.

    You said:
    And yet God by virtue of the decree is not the “author” of this sin?

    Response:
    Answered this already. From Jonathan Edwards: “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.” But, if what you mean is purposed evil and redemption in his creation, then yes, God is in fact the “author” of evil. I do not believe in a dualistic universe where evil sponteneously exist outside of God’s providence. Now if God, being God, purposed evil in his creation and consequently redemption, would that make him evil? The Scripture denies such conclusion.

    I would like to know how you exegete Acts 4:28 not Acts 2:23. Let’s look at the syntax, the words used, the gramar, the chronology… I hope you’ll provide one.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  20. Joey

    The Spirit in Acts 7:51
    In re-reading your comments on the resistance of the Spirit in Acts 7:51, you noted that what we see in this passage “is a picture of a people who [are] in need of God’s redemptive grace”. If that is true then why aren’t these people receiving that effectual, redemptive, and irresistible grace? As you point out they need it and if it was given to them it would be both effectual and irresistible.

    I think what we are seeing in this passage is people who are being given redemptive grace. Or at least have been given it in the past. According to the text the Spirit is (or has been) working yet is (or has been) resisted. What is the Spirit attempting to accomplish? Why isn’t this work of the Spirit effectual in what it seeks to accomplish in this case? After all if the Spirit is being resisted it would seem that what it seeks to accomplish is not occurring and that is because the people are fighting against it. I would argue that the work of the Spirit that is resisted here is the prevenient grace that enables one to come to Christ. This same principle is likely at work in the narrative of the Rich Young Ruler as well.

    The nature and the will in Dort
    You said that I confused the nature with the will when I talked of effectual grace being applied. I am just noting that in the quotes from Dort it mentions that God is acting on the will.

    Under rejection of errors 3rd/4th head, paragraph 8, Dort says it rejects those who teach “That god in the regeneration of man does not use such powers of His omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man’s will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist god and the Holy Spirit,”.

    When Dort rejects those who deny that God bends the will during regeneration it implies that it would also affirm that God does bend the will during regeneration. This “bending of the will” is more clearly affirmed in Article 16 which states “this grace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor take away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it;

    The “it” here is referring back to the will that was healed without any violence being done to it.

    Of course denying that this bending of the will “does [not do] violence” to the will or does not make someone a “senseless stock” is a non sequitur. It does not follow that when a will is infallibly bent that no violence was done to the will. Nor does it mean that the person being acted on was anything but a “senseless stock”. Calvinism may teach both, but that does not mean that the claims they hold have been shown to be valid just because they want them to be.

    I understand that Dort and Calvinists want the monergism cake and to eat it too. Salvation must be all of God. But if it is all of God then man is a robot/stone/stock. Furthermore faith is an active verb that people do. So Calvinism must argue monergism AND argue that man still has some part. But when there does not “remain in man’s power” the ability to “resist God and the Holy Spirit”, it would seem difficult to show how there was a contingent choice that in any meaningful way was a “free” choice.

    Foreknowledge

    God can foreknow the future actions of people with certainty. The Scripture affirms this.

    On this we agree.

    The question is … how his foreknowledge is certain.

    That has been a good part of what we are discussing.

    It is certain because God ordained it — Divine Decree.

    And it is here that we disagree. 🙂

    Taking a look at Acts 4:28
    You asked me to exegete Acts 4:28. I noted that it could be explained the same way as Acts 2:23.

    Here is Greg Boyd’s explanation of both of these passages. I agree with his commentary here even if I don’t agree with his open theism.

    Both [Acts 2:23 and 4:28] speak of the event of the crucifixion being preordained and foreknown. But neither speak of Herod or Pilate being preordained or foreknown to carry out this event. It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the crucifixion was presettled in God’s plan… . But it does not seem reasonable to accept the very paradoxical view that God predestines people to do wicked things, and yet holds them responsible for doing them.

    Some might object that you cannot have a preordained event without preordaining who will carry out this event. The end cannot be certain while the means to the end remain uncertain, they argue.

    The argument doesn’t follow, however. There is no logical problem created by conceiving of an omni-competent God deciding ahead of time that such and such an event will transpire, but leaving undecided the exact means (and also perhaps the exact time) by which the event will transpire.

    I would also encourage you to read this article by William Birch (link)

    the author of sin

    In examining the actions of Absalom you quoted Jonathan Edwards in order to show that God was not the author of the sin just because he decreed that Absalom would sleep with David’s wives.

    Here is that quote:
    “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin.”

    When he opens up with the word “if”, Edwards is really inviting us to explore what is meant by ‘the author of sin’ Let’s consider the proposed definition he offers by way of an example.

    Who was the author of sin in Uriah’s death?

    1) David who purposed and decreed that the army should retreat and leave him in battle to die?
    2) The generals that decreed that the army should retreat and leave him in battle?
    3) The army that retreated and left him in battle?
    4) The enemy soldiers that struck him down in battle?

    by His will it does depend on our will.

    You encouraged me to examine John 1:12-13 as it was an “outright denial” of what I wrote. I would disagree of course. I offer a different interpretation than that usually given by those holding to the Reformed view, and fits the context of the early church.

    Here is how Brian Abasciano explains this passage in this book Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9.10-18 on page 191:

    [John 1:12-13] actually works against Piper because the regenerating act of God there, performed by God alone, is presented as the divine response to human faith (cf. justification in Paul’s thought, which is performed by God alone in response to human faith). John 1.12 indicates that people become children of God by faith. That is, upon believing, God gives them the right to become something that they were not prior to believing – children of God. John 1.13 then clarifies that they become children of God not from human ancestry (that is the significance of ‘not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh [which equates to sexual desire that might lead to procreation], nor of the will of a husband [who was thought to be in charge of sexual/procreative activity]’), but from God, describing their becoming children of God as being born of God. ‘Becoming children of God’ and ‘being born of God’ are parallel expressions referring to the same phenomenon (it would be special pleading, and a desperate expedient at that, to argue that becoming God’s child and being born of him are distinct in the Johannine context or that the text would allow that a person could be born of God and yet not be his child), so that God’s act of regenerating believers, making them his own children, is a response to their faith.

    Along the lines of what Brian writes I would add that the argument that John is making in 1:12-13 is not that God unconditionally elects people but that our physical lineage and the act of circumcision (Rom 4:1, 9-11; Acts 15:5) will not save us. This was something that the Jews were asserting (Matthew 3:9; John 8:34-39) and was a problem in the early church (Acts 15:5; Gal 5:2-3). The true descendants of Abraham are those who are made so by faith (Rom 9:6-8; Gal 3:29) not by the flesh. Nor by their will to do the law as illustrated in this story about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).

    • Hi Mike:

      What a great topic to discuss. Hope I can provide some inputs to balance your view:

      The Spirit in Acts 7:51

      You said:
      If that is true then why aren’t these people receiving that effectual, redemptive, and irresistible grace?

      Response:
      God chose not to give effectual grace. As you can see, the reason they always resist the Holy Spirit is because their hearts were uncircumcised. They could not accept the things of God given their nature (2 Cor 2:14). But we know that if God changes their hearts, then they would have responded in repentance and faith. The Scripture speaks of circumcision of the heart as an activity of Christ (Colossians 2:11). In v. 13, God made us alive with him and that phraseology is directly opposite of having an uncircumcised heart. He does this through the instrumentality of faith — described in the Scripture as a gift, something that is granted and given by God to the unregenrate (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8, Acts 11:18).

      The nature and the will in Dort

      You said:
      I am just noting that in the quotes from Dort it mentions that God is acting on the will.

      Response:
      I am not denying that God acts on the will of his chosen. But I am emphasizing that the way he powerfully bends the will is not by brute force akin to rape or being a robot. As I pointed out in the Canons of Dort, God changes our nature described in article 3 without removing the properties of the will and uses phrases such as “spiritual quickening”, “healing”, “correction”, “spiritual restoration” described as “where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed”. And this nature is where “freedom of our will consist”. When God changes our nature, he enlightens our mind, effetively convince us of our need of the Saviour and giving us clarity of our disposition not just once in time but as he works out our salvation. Through this process, our wills and desires follow that which our mind and reason grasp, agreeing with God and his Gospel as he reveal it to us.

      Taking A Look at Acts 4:28

      You said:
      But neither speak of Herod or Pilate being preordained or foreknown to carry out this event. (Quoting Boyd)

      Response:
      Act 4:27 — Act 4:28
      “For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen.

      I guess Boyd is not reading the text as well as he should being committed to defend his open theistic lens. The text specifically says that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and Israel do as much as God’s power and plan had decided beforehand (boule sou proorisen) would happen.

      I’ve read Birch but he does not offer much of the exegesis of Acts 4:28.

      By His Will It Does Not Depend On Our Will

      You said:
      …they become children of God not from human ancestry (that is the significance of ‘not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh [which equates to sexual desire that might lead to procreation], nor of the will of a husband [who was thought to be in charge of sexual/procreative activity]’), but from God, describing their becoming children of God as being born of God. (Quoting Abasciano)

      Response:
      Several thoughts of Abasciano’s exegesis.
      1. He wants to refer the phrase “not of bloods” as refering to human ancestry which I agree. The problem is that he applies it the next two phrases: thelematos sarkos and thelematos andros which would be redudant. John is saying that our being born from God is not on account of our bloodline (ground). He doesn’t also confer it according to the “will of the flesh” (timing). He doesn’t also confer it according to the “will of man” (effort). But rather to the “will of God”. God determines who are his children and when one becomes his child not humans willing or desire.
      2. The confering of being Children of God belongs to those who “received him” (aorist indicative tense, past) or who are “believing on his name” (present participle). The reception of Christ by a believer and his continuing acceptance of Christ’s claim is the true mark of being the Children of God. It is grounded solely on the will of God and if Children of God then we should have confessed him and still confess him as Lord. If we do not, we have no right to be called children of God. In other words, our confession of him is an identity marker not the ground nor the reason of our being children of God. It is descriptive rather than causative.
      3. The word used which is thelematos (will of) is used 14 times almost all of them is utilised for God — i.e. will of God. Thus the phrase ek thelematos sarkos (will of the flesh) and ek thelematos andros (will of man) is set in contrast against the thelamotos Theou (will of God). God’s will is the sole ground of our becoming Children of God. The timing also is grounded in God’s Will. The effort is not our effort but God’s alone.

      So also in Romans 9:15-17

      “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human will or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

      1. God’ prerogarive is emphasized here. I wilm have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
      2. Then it is followed by a negation that since God has the prerogative on who he will have mercy that his activity of mercying does not therefore depend on human will (thelentos) or effort (literally running) but on God’s prerogative alone.
      3. This is met with opposition where God is being accused of being “unjust”. If it does not depend on us, who can resist his will? And why does he find fault in us? (Romans 9:19). Paul did not change his argument instead presses that God is the potter and we are clay, we can not question God on his prerogatives.

      Two passages that directly contradict your statement that the power of God to save depend on our will rather than on God’s will.

      Reagrds,
      Joey Henry

      • Joey

        The Spirit in Acts 7:51

        The point that seems to be missed is that the Spirit (and the work of grace He was attempting) was resisted. I would argue that the work of the Spirit that is resisted is the prevenient grace that enables one to come to Christ. This also demonstrates that God does not always get what He wants (a point we discussed earlier) because He allows for human freedom of choice.

        Taking A Look at Acts 4:28

        There are 2 possibilities on understanding this passage which interpreters take:

        1) God determined that Christ would be crucified in Jerusalem but did not decree (only foreknow) that Pilate, Herod and others would be involved fulfilling Ps 2.

        2) God determined that Christ would be crucified in Jerusalem and also decreed that Pilate, Herod and others would be involved fulfilling Ps 2.

        You assert the latter. However, your conclusion that you are trying to make from it is a non sequitur. You conclude that this passage can be used to show that God determines all things AND that people have contingent choices. That does not necessarily follow. Even if (for the sake of argument) God did decree and work such that Pilate and Herod were involved in Christ’s death it does not mean that He also decrees every other event for every other person ever. Nor does it mean that in this event that Pilate and Herod had the freedom to make another choice. If their decisions and acts were decreed ahead of time and carried out by the hand of God they had no other choice. However, they may have been hardened to the task (like Pharaoh) based on rejecting the light they had already received.

        The wills in John 1:12-13

        God’s will was to bestow the gift of being His child by faith and not by Jewish descent or custom (ie circumcision) as described in Romans 4. John is also making that point noting that a person’s lineage, will, or desire to be a child of God will not make it happen if it is done different then how God has chosen to do it.

        One can only be given the right to be a child of God when they receive it as a gift by faith rather than something that can be earned or deserved. To say that the will of God here refers to unconditional election and irresistible grace is reading into the text. The faith here is an active verb and thus a willful decision made by a person. It is their expression of trust in God’s Messiah and not in their physical descent or circumcision or other works (see passages in prior comment).

        Here are the translation notes from the NET Bible

        3 tn Grk “of blood(s).” The plural αἱμάτων (Jaimatwn) has seemed a problem to many interpreters. At least some sources in antiquity imply that blood was thought of as being important in the development of the fetus during its time in the womb: thus Wis 7:1: “in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh, within the period of 10 months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage.” In John 1:13, the plural αἱμάτων may imply the action of both parents. It may also refer to the “genetic” contribution of both parents, and so be equivalent to “human descent” (see BDAG 26 s.v. αἷμα 1.a). E. C. Hoskyns thinks John could not have used the singular here because Christians are in fact ‘begotten’ by the blood of Christ (The Fourth Gospel, 143), although the context would seem to make it clear that the blood in question is something other than the blood of Christ.

        4 tn Or “of the will of the flesh.” The phrase οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός (oude ek qelhmato” sarko”) is more clearly a reference to sexual desire, but it should be noted that σάρξ (sarx) in John does not convey the evil sense common in Pauline usage. For John it refers to the physical nature in its weakness rather than in its sinfulness. There is no clearer confirmation of this than the immediately following verse, where the λόγος (logos) became σάρξ.

        5 tn Or “man’s.”

        6 tn The third phrase, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρός (oude ek qelhmato” andros), means much the same as the second one. The word here (ἀνηρ, anhr) is often used for a husband, resulting in the translation “or a husband’s decision,” or more generally, “or of any human volition whatsoever.” L. Morris may be right when he sees here an emphasis directed at the Jewish pride in race and patriarchal ancestry, although such a specific reference is difficult to prove (John [NICNT], 101).

  21. Hi Mike,

    Great answers! Now the Word will shape our theology and I trust the Lord will do his work in both of us.

    The Spirit in Acts 7:51

    You said:
    The point that seems to be missed is that the Spirit (and the work of grace He was attempting) was resisted. I would argue that the work of the Spirit that is resisted is the prevenient grace that enables one to come to Christ. This also demonstrates that God does not always get what He wants (a point we discussed earlier) because He allows for human freedom of choice.

    Response:
    I would have to disagree regarding your reading prevenient grace in the passage. The passage did not say that the Spirit was attempting to work out grace but couldn’t because he was hindered by human volition. Again from the passage, the reason these people resist/rebel against the Spirit is because they have uncircumcised heart and mind — this is characteristic of the unregenerated man as he does not and will not understand the things of God because of his nature (2 Cor 2:14). The cure of rebellion is not found in their human will to free themselves from such slavery. The cure is found in changing their hearts from being uncircumcised to being circumcised. We know that if God changes their hearts, then they would have responded in repentance and faith. The Scripture speaks of circumcision of the heart as an activity of Christ (Colossians 2:11). In v. 13, God made us alive with him and that phraseology is directly opposite of having an uncircumcised heart. He does this through the instrumentality of faith — described in the Scripture as a gift, something that is granted and given by God to the unregenerate (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8, Acts 11:18). Saving Faith is not something that the unregenerate wills to have. It is something that is granted to him.

    Taking A Look at Acts 4:28

    You said:
    God determined that Christ would be crucified in Jerusalem but did not decree (only foreknow) that Pilate, Herod and others would be involved fulfilling Ps 2.

    Response:
    I know you begin to feel the weight of this passage. Option number 1 does not fit the text. Because the text is clear on the matter.

    “For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen.” (Acts 4:27-28)

    *Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel assembled did what they do to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen.

    You said:
    Even if (for the sake of argument) God did decree and work such that Pilate and Herod were involved in Christ’s death it does not mean that He also decrees every other event for every other person ever.

    Response:
    But then, one exception is enough to diminish the legitimacy of your worldview. The assumption that God does not decree future actions of men can not be sustained in light of the Cross. Now we have to ask now is how many times does God’s decree cover? The Scripture is not silent about it. Example after example can be shown that God does act in his creation through his decree, i.e. his predetermined plan and purpose. Just one example would suffice for now: Psalm 139. Here the Lord knows with certainty what David would do. (1) His rising up and down (2) his thoughts even before he thought of them. (3) His frame (4) Where he will go… all of these is linked together when he said, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” You might say this only involves the “number days” but the context makes it clear that what happens on a day, all the activities from 1 to 4, before they came to be, God ordained it in his book.

    The wills in John 1:12-13

    You said:
    One can only be given the right to be a child of God when they receive it as a gift by faith rather than something that can be earned or deserved. To say that the will of God here refers to unconditional election and irresistible grace is reading into the text. The faith here is an active verb and thus a willful decision made by a person. It is their expression of trust in God’s Messiah and not in their physical descent or circumcision or other works (see passages in prior comment).

    Response:
    Agree in everything that you’ve said. I agree with NET also. However, when you said that the derivation of unconditional election and irresistible grace is reading into the text, I respectfully disagree.

    What you seem to accept at this point is that the right of being Children of God is not grounded upon person’s lineage, will, or desire than how God has chosen to do it. This is true. God ordained that the Gospel through faith be the instrument to call his people in a covenant relationship with him. But you seem to miss that it is not only the means that has been discussed here. The contrast between the “will of man/flesh” versus the “will of God” covers not only how we are to become a Children of God but the decision of God whether one will become a Child of God. We can not wish our own rebirth. God will have that prerogative. This motif is very clear in the Gospel of John. I’ll lay out several passages so you’ll see that I am looking at John in it’s entirety. Consider the following:

    John 6:37-40
    “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

    *Note that only those given by the Father to the Son will come to the Son (believes) and those given to the Son, the Son will raise up on the last day (granting them eternal life). The reason of their unbelief, i.e. why they couldn’t come, is because they are not given by the Father to the Son.

    John 6:64-65
    “But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.). And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    *The same structure as vv 37-40 is given here. The reason people do not believe (i.e. come to the Son) is because it was not granted by the Father.

    John 15:16
    You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

    *The same point. Christ chose his people and the negation is clear. He did not choose them because they chose him. Rather, He chose them not because they chose him.

    John 17:2, 6-9

    For you [Christ] granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

    I [Christ] have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

    *Again in this passage the Father has granted Christ to give eternal life to those who the Father has given him. The giving of the Father to the Son logically precedes their coming to the Son. It is not robotic mechanism for the Son powerfully witnesses to them through the preaching of the Word convincing them of its truthfulness. Those who are given “will come to the Son” and “accept his word”. They will have certainty of the claims of Christ. And Christ prays only to those who are given… not to the entire world.

    We can multiply the language of the Gospel of John many times to see that the prerogative of belief (i.e. saving faith) does not reside in human volition as John claims in John 1:12-13 but it is according to God’s Will. It is his choice for us rather than our choice for him. The NET was right when it quoted Morris which I read last night: –“The word here (ἀνηρ, anhr) is often used for a husband, resulting in the translation “or a husband’s decision,” or more generally, “or of any human volition whatsoever.” — Our birth into the Kingdom is never because of our human volition whatsoever. Our crying out of faith and our confession that Jesus is Lord is not because we willed it to be. It was God’s will that brought us to faith and it is his will alone that birth us into the Kingdom. He gave us to the Son and granted us faith (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8, Acts 11:18).

    May the Word of God grant you wisdom in forming your theology.

    In Christ,
    Joey Henry

    • Hey Joey,

      Glad you are also excited about continuing to dig into the Scriptures to see whether these things are so. Here are some thoughts on your last comment.

      The Spirit in Acts 7:51

      The passage did not say that the Spirit was attempting to work out grace but couldn’t because he was hindered by human volition.

      You are right we are not told what work the Spirit was attempting to do when the Jewish leaders were resisting Him. But we do see that the work that the Spirit was seeking to do was resisted.

      1) The Spirit was working on the leaders of Israel
      2) The leaders of Israel resisted the work of the Spirit
      3) Therefore the intended work of the Spirit was not accomplished.

      Further, we do know that the Spirit draws (John 6:44) and convicts people of the need for a Savior (John 16:8-11) . And we know that the leaders have been resisting the Scripture that points to the Messiah (John 5:40). From the context in Acts 7 it is likely this work of the Spirit was to convict the leaders of Israel of their need for the Messiah, announced in the OT, whom they helped crucify.

      I know that the unaided person will not be able to receive Christ. Which is why it would seem that the Spirit was there working to enable these leaders to accept or reject Jesus as Savior. It makes little sense (a tautology) to say “you who are stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart always resist the Spirit” if there was no other option. It seems more likely that God wanted all to be saved and therefore gave the leaders an opportunity to repent (ie PG). They should have set aside their pride and allowed the Spirit to work on their heart (Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4; 9:25; Rom 2:29; Col 2:11).

      Taking A Look at Acts 4:28 and Psalm 139

      I would disagree that option number 1 is not a possible interpretation. The text says that Herod et al. assembled against Jesus. Why did they assemble? To do what was decided beforehand. What was decided beforehand? That Jesus would be crucified.

      one exception is enough to diminish the legitimacy of your worldview

      That is quite the fallacy of hasty generalization.

      The assumption that God does not decree future actions of men can not be sustained in light of the Cross

      If (for the sake of argument) God did decree that the people (Pilate, Herod et al.) be involved in Christ’s death it only means that the premise God does not decree ANY future actions of men is false. It is still valid to assert that God does not decree ALL future actions of men. And when we last discussed this regarding Acts 2:23 I noted that God predetermined the plan of salvation which was to send His Son as the Savior. However just because God was active during this event does not require one to accept the divine determinism of all events.

      After reading Psalm 139, it seems to describe what the Lord knows. It does not say anything about what He decreed. But wait the word “ordain” occurs in the passage right? Depends on how one understands the Hebrew. Even Calvin offered a different interpretation.

      God is observing the formation of the unformed embryo as it is being formed into a newborn baby. In the words of John Calvin (the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time.) Calvin refers to this translation as the more natural meaning because of the context of Psalm 139.

      If the meaning were “the days were ordained,” then God would be injecting some sort of timeless, philosophical, statement in the middle of a discourse about the formation of embryos. The word translated as “fashioned” is transliterated as yatsar, Hebrew יָצַר. It is used 63 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “ordained” by the New King James translators 0 times, King James version 0 times, and the NASB 1 time and the NIV 3 times. “Ordained” implies that God preplanned the event in ages past. The most natural meaning of the word yatsar is to fashion or form.

      We have circled around FK a few times and it is clear that you see FK as rooted in the DD as the WCF proscribes. I do not. Contra WCF, I see FK rooted in future actions. Neither of us is likely to change our views on this by examining passages that describe FK since the basis of the FK is not specified.

      More to come later. 🙂

    • Joey

      Happy New Year’s Eve

      I am going to finish some of my thoughts here regarding John 1:12-13 and John 17. I will provide some thoughts on John 6 in a reply to your other set of comments.

      The wills in John 1:12-13

      I agree with NET also. … AND … the contrast between the “will of man/flesh” versus the “will of God” covers not only how we are to become a Children of God but the decision of God whether one will become a Child of God.

      If you agree with the NET (and by extension Brian Abasciano) that this passage is contrasting the Jewish thinking that they were children of God through physical descent or circumcision vs. God’s will that it be by faith, then you are reading into this passage your views and interpretations on unconditional election and irresistible grace. This passage does not say anything about these things.

      Backing up this, is that we are explicitly told what the will of God is in John 6:40

      For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life …

      How one will interpret John 1:12-13 is going to be influenced by how one interprets the motif as you called it in the rest of the Gospel of John.

      Thoughts on John 15:16
      You did not choose me, but I chose you … opens up the question who is Jesus talking to?

      The answer is the 12 apostles whom Jesus chose out of his disciples for a special task of representing him to the world. Even Calvin writes this in his commentary:

      True, the subject now in hand is not the ordinary election of believers, by which they are adopted to be the children of God, but that special election, by which he set apart his disciples to the office of preaching the Gospel. … Yet I acknowledge that Christ treats expressly of the apostleship; for his design is, to excite the disciples to execute their office diligently and faithfully.

      Of course he goes on to apply this principle to all believers, but the context of the passage does not require that.

      Thoughts on John 17

      You are right that the Father has granted Christ to give eternal life to those who the Father has given him. But, who is being described in the High Priestly prayer as being given? The context is clear that only the apostles are in view here. Similar to John 15:16 above.

      Those who are given to the Son are described as those who Jesus has revealed Himself to (6,8) and they received them and understood Him (8). They were protected while Jesus was with them (12) and none of them perished except Judas (12).

      The giving of the Father to the Son logically precedes their coming to the Son.

      Further the giving is primarily referring to the apostles service in being Jesus’ witnesses after He ascends with the goal being that the whole world may believe (21). So, of course they are given to Jesus before they are turned over for service. Given the context we can assume that it is also the apostles who are given to Jesus in 17:2 to whom Jesus may (subjunctive thus denoting a possibility) give eternal life too. Since Judas is included among the given and he perishes, we know that not all who are given are saved.

      One more observation, when 17:2 says that Jesus may give eternal life to those whom were given to Him, it does not say that life may only be given to those whom Jesus is given. That is good news for us since we are not the apostles. The prayer doesn’t shift to encompassing all believers until verse 20. And these are not described as given only as those who believe the testimony of the apostles.

      I do not ask on behalf of these alone [the apostles], but for those also who believe in Me through their word…

      As you can see we both rely on the Word of God for forming our theology. However, we interpret passages differently. Even those holding Reformed views don’t hold common Calvinistic understandings of these passages (see Psalm 139 and John 15:16).

      • Hi Mike,

        Happy New Year!!! The fireworks in Sydney Harbour Bridge was amazing!

        The wills in John 1:12-13

        You said:
        If you agree with the NET (and by extension Brian Abasciano)…

        Response:
        Firstly, I agree with NET (not with Abasciano) because NET acknowledges that the context of the passage extendsto all kinds of human volition: “The word here (ἀνηρ, anhr) is often used for a husband, resulting in the translation “or a husband’s decision,” or more generally, “or of any human volition whatsoever.”

        Secondly, that it is by faith is no argument against my position. Faith is the immediate (not in a temporal sense but logical sense) result of rebirth. That means those who “received” and are “believing” are the ones who were given the right to become children of God. The reception and belief are not causative but descriptive of the children of God. They are identity markers not the cause of their rebirth. God (not man) is the one who has the will when he grants this saving faith and repentance (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8, Acts 11:18).

        You said:
        Backing up this, is that we are explicitly told what the will of God is in John 6:40…

        Response:
        If you are willing to look John 1:12-13 through John 6:40 then all the more the way I exegete the passage has legitimacy. Observe how John 6 is structured. In v. 36 Jesus said to the unbelievers “You have seen me yet do not believe”. Then he proceeds with in v. 37 that “All that the Father gives me will come to me”. The phrase “come to me” (v. 37) = “looks to the Son” (v. 40) = “believes in Him” (v. 40). The reason why the unbelievers persist in their unbelief is because they have not been given by the Father to the Son. It is the same concept portrayed again in v. 43 where it starts off describing the unbelievers as grumblers. Then Jesus proceeds in v. 44 to say that they grumble because “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Here the “giving” and “drawing” are synonymous. It logically precedes the “coming” and “believing” of those who are given and drawn.

        Here’s the interesting part, you’ll notice in this passage that those who are given or drawn will come to Christ because this is the will of the Father. In v. 38 Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given, but raise it up on the last day.” The Father’s will and the Son’s obedience to the Father’s will is what keeps the this mission successful. We can not posit a possibility that Christ fails to fulfill his Father’s will. This is just repeated in v. 40 where he says, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life…” This sealed the mission: The Father gives a people to the Son which will cause them to come to the Son and believe in Him and the Son will give those who will come to him eternal life. If you believe that there are those given to the Son that will not believe and thus not have life, then this passage is meaningless.

        It ties to how we look at John 1:12-13. God has the ultimate will of who will come to him. The Father is the one who will give to the Son and grant them faith. The Son’s perfect obedience will not fail to give life to those whom his Father has given him. It is not up to us (to any of our human volition) but to the triune God alone.

        Thoughts on John 15:16

        You said:
        The answer is the 12 apostles whom Jesus chose out of his disciples for a special task of representing him to the world. Even Calvin writes this in his commentary […] Of course he goes on to apply this principle to all believers, but the context of the passage does not require that.

        Response:
        And this is where our hermeneutic needs to be consistent. Majority of the Scripture are spoken to specific set of people. The Epistle of Romans to the Romans. The Epistle of Corinthians to Corinth. It is not specifically addressed to us. Would you say that it does not require us to draw the principle of our understanding of doctrines from these writings? Thus Calvin was right to see implications here of how we are to understand God’s choosing us through his choosing of his disciples when he was on earth. He chose them not because they chose him. And this is how God chose us in Him as disciples of Christ. To continue in your hermeneutic, you will have to say that we can not generalise the principles of almost anything Jesus said in the Gospels. And this is spiritually dangerous to your church and to yourself.

        You said:
        But, who is being described in the High Priestly prayer as being given? The context is clear that only the apostles are in view here. Similar to John 15:16 above.

        Response:
        The immediate audience was the disciples in John 17 but this doesn’t mean that the idea of the Father’s giving them to the Son is exclusive to them (see John 6:44).

        You said:
        Given the context we can assume that it is also the apostles who are given to Jesus in 17:2 to whom Jesus may (subjunctive thus denoting a possibility) give eternal life too. Since Judas is included among the given and he perishes, we know that not all who are given are saved.

        Response:
        The contingency of the subjunctive is dependent on the “giving” of the Father of a people to the Son. Judas was not given by the Father. John 13:18 makes that clear, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his hell against me’.” Judas was specifically chosen to fulfill the Scripture and is not categorised as one of the chosen whom the Son should effectually give life.

        You said:
        That is good news for us since we are not the apostles. The prayer doesn’t shift to encompassing all believers until verse 20. And these are not described as given only as those who believe the testimony of the apostles.

        Response.
        I must say this is very wrong Mike. In v. 20, the prayer of Jesus extends to all who will believe in him. That is not divorced from v. 6, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” This is the very reason why immediately after v. 20, in v. 24, he said “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” The pronouns “they” and “them” refers back to v. 20 and their unity in v. 21-22. This prayer is not for the apostles only as if they are the only ones given but to all whom the Father has given to the Son, even to those who will yet come to the Son at this point.

        You said:
        As you can see we both rely on the Word of God for forming our theology. However, we interpret passages differently.

        Response:
        Yes we do interpret the passages differently but who is more consistent in his exegesis? Who is walking through the passage thought by thought? We can interpret the passage all we want but we couldn’t escape its meaning if we let it speak. Our commitment to the Word requires us to look at each of these passages with a prayerful heart. I am discussing this with you to check my own theology. I am ready to change if I found my exegesis wrong. I went back to my Hebrew when I looked at Psalm 139. I went back to my Greek when I looked at John 6 and other passages because I am willing to be corrected. But, this exercise has just made my faith stronger that reformed theology is very consistent and can account for its theological systems through the Word.

        Regards,
        Joey Henry

      • Joey

        Glad you got to start off the new year with a bang.

        Majority of the Scripture are spoken to specific set of people. The Epistle of Romans to the Romans. The Epistle of Corinthians to Corinth. It is not specifically addressed to us. Would you say that it does not require us to draw the principle of our understanding of doctrines from these writings?

        That is one of the many challenges of doing good Bible study. Wrestling with the message to the original audience and working out the practical applications for us.

        To continue in your hermeneutic, you will have to say that we can not generalise the principles of almost anything Jesus said in the Gospels.

        Really? In the case of the prayer in chapter 17, it is clear that the first part is Jesus praying for the apostles. That we also have the task of loving others and sharing the Gospel (Matt 28) does not mean that that part of the prayer was for us. And clearly Christ was manifested to them (v6) directly as they are witnesses to his earthly ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection. We rely on their testimony.

        It was to us that John wrote in the closing (20:29):

        Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed

        I must say this is very wrong Mike. In v. 20, the prayer of Jesus extends to all who will believe in him.

        Up to verse 20 the prayer is specifically for the apostles. After that it encompasses not only them “but for those also who believe in Me through their [the apostle’s] word”.

  22. Hi Mike,

    Again great responses! I can see where you are coming from.

    The Spirit in Acts 7:51

    You said:
    Further, we do know that the Spirit draws (John 6:44) and convicts people of the need for a Savior (John 16:8-11).

    Response:
    In John 6:44, it is the Father that draws not the Spirit. The doer of the verb “helkyse” (draw) is the “pater” (Father). Interestingly, in John 6:44 we can see that the one who is drawn is raised up by the Son on the last day. There seems to be no failure on the part of the Son to raise up on the last day those whom the Father has drawn. The drawing here is paralleled by the picture of all those whom the Father has given to the Son (v. 39). It is Father’s will that the Son should raise them (those who are given (v. 39) = those who are drawn (v. 44)) at the last day. In other words, if John 6:44 is the lens on which we see God’s work in Acts 7:51, we can only conclude that if he has drawn them, they would come to the Son. But since they rejected him, then that kind of drawing is not present here.

    You said:
    They should have set aside their pride and allowed the Spirit to work on their heart (Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4; 9:25; Rom 2:29; Col 2:11).

    Response:
    Indeed, I agree with you 100%. The command is clear enough and is given to them. Repent! All injunctions of Deut 10:16, Jer 4:4, etc were presented there. The Gospel is indeed given to all and the Gospel command is proclaimed to all. But will the spiritually dead respond to the Gospel? The Scripture says they can’t unless God has granted them faith and repentance (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8, Acts 11:18). This granting can only proceed from the new birth (1 John 5:1). That is why, from our worldview, all boasting is eliminated because not one of us could claim that it is by our own volition that granted God the power to save us. Your worldview (and this is not meant as an insult) can always say to God, “You were only successfully to save me because I chose you… without me choosing you, you will be frustrated! You can wish all you want to save me, but my volition have the final say.”

    Taking A Look at Acts 4:28 and Psalm 139

    You said:
    To do what was decided beforehand. What was decided beforehand? That Jesus would be crucified.

    Response:
    So the verb “poiesai” (to do) is divorced from verse 27 when the preceding context gives us what it is that was according to the “proosin genesthai” (predetermined to happen)? Yes there is no question that Christ would be crucified. But his crucifixion would be carried out by Herod, Pilate, Israel and the Gentiles and this was according to God’s “hand and plan had predestined to take place”.

    You said:
    That is quite the fallacy of hasty generalization.

    Response:
    Not so. The point of the argument is not to generalise. The point is: In light of the revelation of the Cross, it can not be sustained from a Christian worldview to posit a logical impossibility for God to decree future actions of men while maintaining that their actions stem from their natural freedom. Since we have a divine revelation from Scripture regarding God’s activities of his decree (in light of the Cross) and but man is still held responsible, it should form part of our axiom that there is no contradiction between creaturely freedom and divine decree when reasoning. Secondly, the logical impossibility can only be sustained if freedom is defined in a libertarian sense. But again, in light of Scriptural data, the libertarian view of freedom can be challenged because God held these people responsible even though he reveals that he predestined it to happen. Thus, libertarian freedom has no basis from Scripture.

    I get what you are saying that we can not generalise what happened at the Cross to our lives. But from a practical point of view, you can not say to someone that God hasn’t pre-ordained an event that happened. In your worldview, no one can. Your worldview then has no pastoral implication for you do not know whether an event has been ordained by God to fit his general plans. Therefore, if cancer happens or rape or murder, you can only say, “I don’t know whether this is pre-ordained. At some points in Scripture, God can do that such as what happened at the Cross. But, in your case, I don’t know, I can’t generalise.” Our worldview, can confidently say, “From eternity past God is certain on what will happen in your life because God decreed it and he decreed it because he has a purpose for it. We may not know his purposes but we know that he is a God who is holy and you will look back someday at this event to give glory to God; For, everything that happens ultimately is designed for us to give glory to him just like what happened at the Cross.”

    You said:
    After reading Psalm 139, it seems to describe what the Lord knows. It does not say anything about what He decreed. But wait the word “ordain” occurs in the passage right?

    Response:
    Now this is the passage I advanced to argue for the scope of the decree of God. I appreciate your response here because I dig into my Hebrew and commentaries again. Your argument here is that the word “ordain” should be translated “formed/fashioned”. However, although BDB in p. 427 would say that the classical meaning of it is as such, the idea of predestination or foreordination can not be eliminated (2 Kings 19:25, Isaiah 22:11, 37:26 and 46:11) (see Qumran and Predestination: A Theological Study of the Thanksgiving Hymns by Eugene H. Merrill p. 18).

    Secondly, the issue of the exegesis regarding the phrase “all were written” should be addressed. The KJV translated it in such a way that the referent of “all were written” are the “members”; perhaps referring to the frame of the body. But the referent does not exist in the original (thus it is italicised in the KJV). The Hebrew rather just says “in your book all were written//days were fashioned-ordained//when [there was] none of them”. Almost all modern translation committee (or individual translation) agree that “days” was the referent. The KJV is virtually alone in its translation. If all modern translations are correct, then here we have a strong case of how God knows the future actions of men. He knows them because he ordains them to be and the scope of it is total not just peripheral. It includes the person’s rising up and down, thoughts before he thinks of them, location where he will go… etc.

    I advanced two passages with strong exegetical consideration regarding the relationship of future events (even future choices of men) and God’s ordaining them. I can advance more passages which I can exegete given time. However, I notice that you haven’t advance a single passage proving your worldview, i.e. God’s knowledge (foreknowledge) is grounded on the future actions of non-existent men in eternity past. I’d like to know given our commitment to Scripture where this worldview is revealed.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  23. Joey

    Defining FW

    … the logical impossibility can only be sustained if freedom is defined in a libertarian sense

    I have already demonstrated that LFW (ie contingent choice) is contradictory (logically) to determinism, a conclusion which you now seem to agree with. Though at this point I have no idea how you are defining LFW. You claimed the label compatibilist yet have argued for contingent choices as well.

    To be extra clear, here are the basic definitions of the two ideas around FW

    LFW = the ability for an agent to determine the choice they will make between one or more alternatives. It is truly possible for either option to be chosen. It does not require the absence of influences only the absence of a decree.

    Compatibilism = the ability for an agent to “freely” choose that which it was determined they would choose. There is only one possible outcome that which was decreed. However, the agent is still morally responsible for that choice.

    Repentance

    The Gospel is indeed given to all and the Gospel command is proclaimed to all. But will the spiritually dead respond to the Gospel? The Scripture says they can’t unless God has granted them faith and repentance (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:8, Acts 11:18).

    “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” to which I say Amen. Arminians and Calvinists both accept the doctrine “total depravity” that acknowledges that the natural man needs God’s aid to accept Christ. Us non-Calvinists would argue that the repentance God grants is PG and not irresistible effectual grace.

    Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

    In Romans 2:4, why is God patient and waiting? He can bestow effectual grace when ever he wants. God patiently waits and kindly, mercifully bestows PG to draw us and allow us to respond because He wants all to be saved but does leave the final choice to us. We are saved by grace and through faith.

    C.S. Lewis summarizes the non-Calvinist view well in the Screwtape Letters:

    You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.

    This granting can only proceed from the new birth (1 John 5:1).

    A presupposition held by most Calvinists but one that Scripture does not require. The fallen nature only needs God’s aid to respond to His gracious offer of salvation, not to be regenerated (or reborn) first. Rebirth is made possible after one has been justified by faith. Here is a look at that passage.

    You were only successfully to save me because I chose you… without me choosing you, you will be frustrated!

    I read this and then wonder how “no violence” is done to FW when God decrees, elects, and effectually regenerates a person without them choosing to be regenerated.

    This has always struck me as a silly (no insult intended) analogy since what destitute beggar boasts of what they did after being given money, food and shelter. Does he say to those who gave aid that you only helped me because I let you. No they rejoice and say thank you knowing that the helper did all the work. They only accepted it.

    Roger Olson notes:

    One of Calvinism’s main arguments against Arminianism is that if Arminianism is true, God’s salvation is not all of grace. We earn it. Only if election to salvation is absolutely unconditional and grace irresistible, they argue, can it truly be the case that “by grace we are saved through faith.” Only then is salvation a sheer gift. This is, of course, untrue. Think of this analogy. If someone gives you a check for a thousand dollars that saves you from bankruptcy, and all you have to do is endorse the check and deposit it, did you earn part of the money? Was it any less a gift? Absolutely not. What if someone who received such a check that saved him or her from bankruptcy then boasted of having earned part of the gift? People would think him mad or ungrateful or both! A gift that must be freely received is no less a gift.

    Now let’s look at Calvinism’s idea of unconditional election. If God is good and could save everyone because election to salvation is absolutely unconditional, why doesn’t he? How can he be truly good if he could but doesn’t? Again, we are back at the fundamental conflict between Calvinism and Arminianism—God’s character.

    In the Reformed view, as Olson notes, we must also consider all who perish. They do so because they deserve it as sinners sure, but also because God did not choose them. They lost the eternal lottery game. God planned and designed from eternity to let them perish for His glory. Which as Roger Olson & John Wesley say means “the only difference in character is that the devil wants everyone to go to hell and God only wants some, many, to go to hell.” Harsh words. But difficult to avoid heading to that conclusion given unconditional election and irresistible grace.

    Drawing

    In John 6:44, it is the Father that draws not the Spirit

    Who created the world?
    It was God (Gen 1:1), yet we know the Son (Col 1:16) and the Spirit (Gen 1:2) were involved.

    Who rose Jesus from the dead?
    Again we see that it was the Father (Gal 1:1), and the Son (John 10:17) and the Spirit (Rom 1:4) who were involved.

    I don’t see any issue with all the persons of the Trinity involved in the drawing. In fact we see just that. In John 6:44 the Father draws and in John 12:32 the Son draws and if we take the work of the Spirit in John 16:8-11 as a drawing then we see all three involved.

    in John 6:44 we can see that the one who is drawn is raised up by the Son on the last day. … The drawing here is paralleled by the picture of all those whom the Father has given to the Son

    Actually John 6:44 only tells us only that “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him”. It does not say that everyone who is drawn will come. Those who are raised are those who are drawn and come. Those who are drawn and don’t come will perish.

    And here is a logical look at what the Scripture says regarding drawing:

    1) No one can come (believe) unless Father draws them (John 6:44)
    2) Jesus will draw all people to Himself (John 12:32)
    3) Not all people believe (John 3:36; 17:12)
    4) the Spirit can be resisted (Acts 7:51; John 5:40)
    Therefore we conclude that the drawing of a person is not effectual.

    The drawing described in John seems to match the idea of PG, in which the Spirit draws (and enables) a person to accept Christ but can be resisted. Thus all can be saved (just as God wants) but not all will be.

    In other words, if John 6:44 is the lens on which we see God’s work in Acts 7:51, we can only conclude that if he has drawn them, they would come to the Son. But since they rejected him, then that kind of drawing is not present here.

    Actually, I conclude just the opposite. They are drawn (as all people are) and they resist.

    Here is another look at John 6 from SEA that offers some other thoughts (link)

    summing up
    Yes we do interpret the passages differently but who is more consistent in his exegesis? Who is walking through the passage thought by thought?

    I assume that is hypothetical… 😉

    You have given me a lot to think through in our dialogue. I appreciate your respect and love of God and the Scriptures. It seems that iron sharpens iron, yet after our discussion we are both just sharper swords for our respective views.

    In the end, I do think both Calvinism and Arminianism can build reasonable cases for their views from the Scriptures. There are many passages that can be interpreted differently within reasonable grammatical, exegetical, and contextual constraints. We have seen several within our discussion.

    However, when one reads the early church (prior to Nicea) we find that those who knew the apostles, the culture, and the language better than we ever could all finding consensus on FK that rejected determinism, a LFW that allowed for contingent choices, and a theology that looks very Arminian. We do not find the Reformed views articulated until Augustine (a philosopher who was saved out of a Gnostic group that among other views held to determinism) in the middle of the 5th century. That should give us some pause as we wrestle with our interpretations.

    In the end Arminianism provides a system that describes God’s character more consistently with how we see Him revealed in the Bible and through His Son Jesus. In Arminianism we find the Father who has made every possible move to restore and save all people and is ready with open arms to receive the prodigals and the lost that He sent His Son to seek and rescue. It explains why God wants all to be saved and yet not all are saved. It explains evil as the result of sinful people permitted to misuse their freedom rather than as part of God’s sovereign plan in which He wrote it into the script.

    The logical conclusions of divine determinism and unconditional election mean that God has chosen to damn the majority of mankind from the outset without providing for their salvation, can reasonably be considered the “author” of sin, and offers at best a compatible version of “free will” which means contingent choice is an illusion. One can only avoid these conclusions within this system by rejecting them in favor of the paradoxes and contradictions they create.

    Thanks for again and have a very Happy New Year!
    May God bless and multiply you in your ministry.

  24. Hi Mike,

    Good day. Yesterday was a great time for us to walk along the coastal lines from Bondi to Coogee beach. My wife and I had a wonderful exercise. These simple things allow us to express our gratitude to the God who made us. Regarding your responses:

    Defining FW

    I have already demonstrated that LFW (ie contingent choice) is contradictory (logically) to determinism, a conclusion which you now seem to agree with. Though at this point I have no idea how you are defining LFW. You claimed the label compatibilist yet have argued for contingent choices as well.

    I believe our definitions of LFW needs to be clarified and I think your clarification did not define the issues well. Your definition of LFW hinges on the ability of a person (A) to make alternative choices. But this is not the defining point of LFW in my perspective. Both LFW and NFW (natural free will) admit in their worldview the ability of A to make alternative choices. The difference between LFW and NFW is that LFW views the choice of A as necessarily non-causal or non-determined in order for it to be free. The presence of a plurality of alternatives in which A is able to make is present in both NFW and LFW. But should A make a choice, LFW views that choice as un-caused otherwise it will not be “free”. Or, as I have mentioned in my earlier response to you which you might have missed: LFW posits that in order for the will of A to be free, A has to have equal power to choose between alternatives and that power should not be determined externally.

    Now, you’ve shown in your square of opposition argument that given God’s decree, the certainty of the choice (p) of A is 100%. And that therefore A will choose p. The main issue of this argument is not God’s decree. Rather, it is the “certainty” of God in eternity past of p. DD only provides the ground of God’s infallible knowledge (GIF) but it is not the factor that poses the problem for LFW or NFW. It is GIF that is the problem. For, if GIF is true then in eternity past p is certain and A will choose p. There is no actual world where p will not be the choice without invalidating GIF. Since, both of us believe in GIF (I ground it in DD, you ground it elsewhere), we face the same problem presented by fatalism where given GIF, the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP)* is breached. Actually then, what you’ve argued is not just applicable to people who grounds GIF to DD but to all who believes in GIF including your worldview.

    As can be observed, I did not stop at this tu qouque argument. I also argued that as Christians, we have certain axioms to admit in our reasoning and that is the axiom of divine revelation. My solution to the fatalism argument is to look at divine revelation and derive my worldview from there. Thus, I proceeded to show passage after passage where God ordains to obtain the future. This is what we have been discussing so far. The Christian worldview resolves the consistency of creaturely freedom and God’s sovereignty by expanding the axiom of natural logic (that which we can derive from intuition/nature) to divine presuppositions (that which is derived from revelation). Given that it can be shown in divine revelation that God ordains the future actions men and yet held men responsible and viewed their actions as self determined, then it is part of the axiom of a Christian worldview. I am not arguing against an atheist so I thought the final appeal to Scripture is necessary to know the Christian worldview.

    *PAP = If you cannot do otherwise when you do an act, you do not act freely.

    John 6

    Since both of us granted that Acts 7:51 can be viewed through the lens of John 6:44, then our interpretation of John 6 is vital. It is not necessary to drag the concepts of the Immanent Trinity to defend the error that you made that in John 6:4 it is the Spirit that draws. I understand that your point that given the acts of the triune God, all persons in the Trinity acts. For example, in the act of redemption, all persons in the Trinity is involved. So also in the act of creation, all persons of the Trinity is involved. The technical term for this is perichoretic union. But the failure to distinguish which action is performed by who within the Trinity is in danger of modalism. We can not say that the Father died for sin on the basis of perichoretic union. Thus, we need to register also in our exegesis not just the Immanent Trinity but the Economic Trinity as well. In John 6:44, it is the Father that draws not the Spirit nor the Son. Failure to keep this category in our exegesis will be spiritually dangerous to your church and to yourself.

    I’ve read your exegesis of John 6:44. I think I will just respond in that post. I find it very interesting and very sad at the same time noting how one is willing to posit the kind of argument you’ve proposed there.

    1 John 5:1

    Your argument in this passage (correct me if I am wrong) is that the statement is merely descriptive and that the context is not about the logical order between regeneration and faith. But my rebuttal would be that the description entails the logical order between regeneration and faith. Consider for example, someone (A) who professed faith (e) at the first instance of his life (t). (1) Is 1 John 5:1 true prior to t? (2) Is 1 John 5:1 true at the exact point of t? If the answer to (1) is “No” and (2) is “Yes”, then the logical order is entailed in the description of 1 John 5:1. Logically, it is necessary to be born of God first before one can be described as having faith.

    Repentance in Acts 11:48

    Your argument here is that the repentance that God grants is PG. I don’t know how to interpret this. Is repentance = PG? You see repentance is an act of the will of the agent. The Scripture did not say God grants the Gentiles a choice to change their mind (PG). It says, God granted them repentance. The Scripture does not speak of potentiality of repentance but the certainty of it.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

    • Joey

      You are correct, that LFW includes the idea that the choice should not be determined by anyone but the moral agent.

      You wrote: Your definition of LFW hinges on the ability of a person (A) to make alternative choices. But this is not the defining point of LFW in my perspective.

      I would argue that that is one of the key characteristics separating the idea of LFW from the compatibilist idea. So would most philosophers.

      In fact there are two primary characteristics of LFW captured in this article from Stanford.

      1) The Classical Incompatibilist Argument (Garden of Forknig Paths)
      — alternate choice/ability to do otherwise

      2) The Source Incompatibilist Argument.
      — the agent is the source of the decision

      The Classical Incompatibilist Argument is presented as follows:

      1) If a person acts of her own free will, then she could have done otherwise
      2) If determinism is true, no one can do otherwise than one actually does
      3) Therefore, if determinism is true, no one acts of her own free will

      the Garden of Forking Paths model suggests that a freely willing agent could have acted other than she did and, hence, that more than one future is possible. …

      The Source Incompatibilist Argument is presented as follows:
      1) A person acts of her own free will only if she is its ultimate source
      2) If determinism is true, no one is the ultimate source of her actions
      3) Therefore, if determinism is true, no one acts of her own free will

      The article above notes the following regarding being an ultimate source:

      If an agent is not the ultimate source of her actions, then her actions do not originate in her, and if her actions are the outcomes of conditions guaranteeing them, how can she be said to control them? The conditions sufficient for their occurrence were already in place long before she even existed!

      You wrote: LFW posits that in order for the will of A to be free, A has to have equal power to choose between alternatives and that power should not be determined externally.

      Not sure what you mean by “equal power”, but if it is the idea that all of the influences most be equal (balanced) for the choice to be undetermined, then I would offer to you that most LFW adherents would reject this idea.

      The key idea for compatibilism vs. LFW is how one defines freedom. LFW assumes that freedom is found in people having the power to choose between alternatives.

      Compatibilism assumes that freedom is found is people having the power to choose what they want. The difference is that the person does not have the ability to choose otherwise but is “free” because they chose what they wanted. Jonathan Edwards model where the strongest desire causes the will to decide is what I find to be the most commonly held in discussions.

      I was (and to some degree still am) confused about how you view FW. You said you held to compatibilism but also expressed that people have the ability to choose otherwise/between alternatives.

      You wrote: The main issue of this argument is not God’s decree. Rather, it is the “certainty” of God in eternity past of p. DD only provides the ground of God’s infallible knowledge (GIF) but it is not the factor that poses the problem for LFW or NFW. It is GIF that is the problem. For, if GIF is true then in eternity past p is certain and A will choose p. There is no actual world where p will not be the choice without invalidating GIF.

      You are failing to account for a key difference. In the DD, God is the grounds of the act. His design and purpose determine (without the agent being involved) what will be. God must now, like a producer or a director, insuring that the agent’s acts align with the script (regardless of the means of how he does that for the moment). If God has decreed that the agent/actor will choose A the agent/actor does not have the actual freedom to choose not-A. Thus the agent does not possess LFW (ability to choose otherwise) in this case.

      In views that reject DD, the agent’s act causes FK. If the agent chooses A then God will FK that the agent chose A. If the agent were instead to choose not-A then God will FK that the agent chose not-A. God must insure that He FKs with accuracy what which will occur in the future. Thus the agent possesses LFW (ability to choose otherwise) in this case.

      You wrote: Thus, I proceeded to show passage after passage where God ordains to obtain the future

      Throughout our discussion we have seen that alternative interpretations that do not require DD are plausible/possible. Even other Calvinists have suggested that some of the passages presented were not specifically dealing with the DD (for example Psalm 139 and John 15:16).

      I feel our discussion has circled around on itself a few times regarding these topics. I have enjoyed our discussions but as the holiday season closes and work & ministry pick up I will be tapering off on the level of my interaction & responses here.

      • Hi Mike,

        You said you held to compatibilism but also expressed that people have the ability to choose otherwise/between alternatives.

        Both of us believe that secondary agents have the ability to choose between alternatives. That is to say both our worldviews can account for counterfactuals. However, both of us are believers of GIF and therefore none of us believe that the future is open. Because of GIF, A will certainly choose p otherwise GIF is false. And this is the reason why given GIF there is no actual world that A could have not chosen p.

        Now, you said that difference between us is that God’s knowledge is somehow dependent on the choice of A. But, as I argued, in eternity past A did not yet exist and did not yet make a choice. Thus, if God is dependent on A and the choice of A is independent of God then A somehow possess an attribute of eternality which both us deny. This somehow turns the creator-creature distinction on its head.

        I believe the Incompatibilist Argument is consistent with those worldview who sees the future as open. But both our worldview don’t believe that the future is open. Thus, in some sense, your view of LFW needs to be compatible with GIF, thus somehow a form of compatibilism. GIF determines what the actual world is and it needs to be compatible with the tenets of LFW.

        The grounding of GIF is also part of our discussion. I ground it on DD. You ground it elsewhere. I advanced passages where the relationship of the knowledge of God and his decree of men’s affairs, even choices, can positively support my gounding of GIF to DD. You haven’t advanced a single passage to prove where you ground GIF. If it is grounded on the agent’s being ala William Craig’s defense, where is that spoken of in Scripture?

        Regards,
        Joey Henry

    • Joey

      Thanks for the warnings against modalism. Judging from your comment regarding John 6:44 I assume you see the drawing of the Father here as something different from the drawing of the Son in 12:32.

      What is the drawing performed by the Father in John 6:44, who is drawn, and what is its purpose?

      What is the drawing performed by the Son in John 12:32, who is drawn, and what is its purpose?

      Thanks

      • Same drawing. The diffence between how we interpret John 12:32 will be in the phrase “all”. As you can see, in Gospel of John the word “all” doesn’t mean “all” individually. It can function also collectively. If the latter is be admitted to our exegesis, the cross will draw Jews and Gentiles alike without distinction, without regard to social classes, economic status, sex or political rank. It doesn’t mean “all” individually but all collectively.

      • Joey

        When I offered a logical look at John 6:44 and 12:32 along with Acts 7:51 to show that the drawing described was not effectual, you noted I was in danger of modalism. The warning was levied because I suggested that the work of the Spirit in Acts 7:51 could be analogous to the drawing we see in the John passages.

        In John 6:44 the Father draws unbelievers.
        In John 12:32 the Son draws unbelievers.
        In Acts 7:51 the Spirit is working on unbelievers.

        When I asked how the Father’s drawing and the Son’s drawing were different, you noted that they were the same. How are you not committing the same error you accused me of?

      • Hi Mike,

        I was referring the effect of the drawings not the doer and purpose of the drawings. In John 6, the Father draws people and gives them to the Son to secure their salvation. In John 12, the Son draws people to himself not by giving a people to himself but by securing the basis of their salvation, i.e. dying through thw Cross. Both the drawing of the Father through election and the drawing of the Son through the Cross have the same effect: effectual salvation of the elect. That’s the sameness of the drawing that I was referring to.

        I am not saying that because in John 6 the Father draws effectively through election, that the Son also does this. I am not aware of any passage where the Son gave a people to himself. It has always been the Father who gives a people to his Son. Thus also, when the Son draws people through dying on the Cross for their healing, we can not sat that the Father also does this. The Father did not die on the Cross or will be lifted up. Only the person of the Son did this. And yet the actions of the Son and the Father are the one act of God.

        To merge the persons in the Trinity without regard to the distinctions the Scripture made is in danger of distorting the basic Trinitarian formula.

        Regards,
        Joey Henry

      • So the drawing is not the same only the effects. Then let me see if I understand what you are advocating.

        The Father draws which means He gives people to the Son.
        The Son draws which means He secures the basis of salvation.

        Am I right in also assuming then that neither the drawing of the Father, nor the Son, are the effectual grace of regeneration that must precede faith (and is the work of the Spirit)?

        The Father is said to perform 3 actions: draws, grants, and gives in John 6. It seems you equate the Father’s drawing with the Father’s giving as meaning the same action. Those, regardless of how else we see the passage or election, seem to be two separate acts.

  25. Pingback: Society of Evangelical Arminians | Does God Want All to Be Saved? A Response to Dr. Kruger

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