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An outline of the chapter on free will in Robert Peterson’s Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility.

Free Will and the Bible’s Story

  1. Human beings as created had true freedom and freedom of choice.
  2. Human being as fallen lost true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
  3. Human beings as redeemed have regained a measure of true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
  4. Human beings as glorified will be perfected in true freedom and will retain freedom of choice.

True freedom = “the ability to love and serve God unhindered by sin” (p. 131).

Freedom of choice or spontaneity = “the ability of human beings to do as they wish” (p. 126)

Free Will and Reasons Why People Are Saved and Condemned

1. Reasons why people are saved

a. People are saved because they trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
b. People are saved because the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to the Gospel.
c. People are saved because Christ died and rose to save them.
d. People are saved because the Father chose them for salvation before creation.

2. Reasons why people are condemned

a. People are condemned because of their actual sin.
b. People are condemned because of Adam’s original sin.
c. People are condemned because God passed over them (reprobation).

Free Will and Its Relation to God’s Sovereignty

1. The Bible affirms both divine sovereignty and genuine human responsibility.

a. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty.
b. The Bible affirms genuine human responsibility.
c. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty and human responsibility together.

2. Parameters for sovereignty and responsibility.

a. Fatalism must be rejected as an error.
b. Absolute power to the contrary must be rejected as an error.

3. To emphasize either sovereignty or responsibility at the expense of the other is to fall into the error of rationalism.

a. Hyper-Calvinism is an error.
b. Arminianism is an error.


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Comments:


92 thoughts on “Free Will: A Primer”

  1. Rey Reynoso says:

    A robot can serve God unhindered by sin and that’s true freedom? If a person is brainwashed to want chicken and they now act on that wish, they’re free? What an unfortunately simplistic definition of Freedom!

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Rey, your reductio ad absurdum doesn’t work because you’ve misstated the definition, which begins with “the ability to love…”

      JT

    2. Scott C says:

      Rey,
      Do you believe people are free to act against their nature?

  2. ordo salutis says:

    what responsibility does a dead man have? seems like God has to save him before he can trust in Christ

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      The Bible teaches that before salvation we are both dead and culpable for our deadness.

      1. ordo salutis says:

        This is why we need to be careful how we articulate this issue. Yes, all sinners are culpable (deserving blame) for their sin and sin nature—but that was not what I was getting at. The problem with synergists is that they want to be a deciding factor in whether they get saved or not—-they want to believe that every man has a vote in whether or not he is redeemed—-man’s choice is the ultimate variable in the salvation equation for them. But the Bible says something far different. Romans clearly explains that whether or not a man is saved depends ENTIRELY on the mercy and grace of God. It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. God and God alone determines who is Elect and who is not. Period. Man does not enter that equation at any point.

        This drives the Arminians crazy. They don’t like a God that has mercy on some and not others without the consent of the people, and they point to the Bible and shout “Responsibility! Responsibility!” And here is where Calvinists try to explain human responsibility to them and many times muddy the waters and actually give too much credence to their error of synergism, because usually what Calvinists don’t realize is that the whole issue revolves around election for the synergist. The Arminian wants to in some way be a factor in his election. They want a part in whether or not God elects them. So when they bring up “responsibility” they do it with a view towards election, but the Word is clear that man has no responsibility whatsoever in determining election. So under the heading of Reasons Why People Are Saved there are 4 points that are all true taken at face value, but we have to be aware that the Arminian wants to interpret point A to mean that their trust in Christ was the determining factor in their salvation/election, when in reality trust and faith in Christ are simply fruit of the Spirit who has already regenerated them, apart from any choice they made. Election is the cause of trust and faith in Christ, not sovereign human choice. Are we “responsible” to trust in Christ? Yes, but all the elect will fulfill that responsibility because it is the Holy Spirit who irresistibly works those necessities out in the life of the elect. God’s grace is the determiner.
        Thank God that I am not responsible for my salvation.

        Thank God for His sovereign grace and mercy. Thank God that His loving will overcame my wicked will and molded me into a man that trusts the person and work of Christ for salvation. Because if it were ultimately up to my choice I would still be rejecting Him all the way to Hell.

        1. “So when they bring up ‘responsibility’ they do it with a view towards election”

          Nah, we do it with a view toward damnation. I really don’t feel like I’ve earned my place there in Calvinism.

  3. Jerry says:

    Once again a Calvinist misstates Arminian theology, no need to repond until you show you can actually state the postion you are arguing against.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      You can read the chapter to see if this is the case. This is just an outline. I don’t see in the outline above how he is even attempting to restate Arminian theology.

  4. Rey Reynoso says:

    Yeah, I ignored the word that we can pack the most meanings in to. My bad. lol

  5. Terry says:

    I’m the first to admit that I don’t completely understand predestination and free will. However, I believe the Bible teaches two things very clearly: (1) God is responsible for my salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). (2) I am responsible for my sinful choices (James 1:13-15).

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Terry, I think that’s an excellent place to be. I’ve said a number of times to friends over the years that God will never hold us responsible for precisely parsing how the two cohere (though I believe that they do and that this can be explained), but he will hold us responsible for believing that they cohere, since both are taught in Scripture.

  6. This has been a helpful overview, thanks!

    If you get that the ideas in 1 & 2 can co-exist legitimately, it really helps you in beginning to understand the co-existence and interplay between physical and spiritual reality.

  7. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    a. Hyper-Calvinism is an error.
    b. Arminianism is an error.

    Then I’ll avoid the errors of the extremes and choose Calvinism.

  8. Jon Coutts says:

    Under “Free Will and Reasons Why People Are Saved and Condemned”, why is there no 2d. to correlate with 1d.? Thanks.

  9. Jacob says:

    I don’t personally appreciate the over-generalization in regard to Arminianism being called an error. The Arminian camp is so broad that I don’t find it fair to lump all of them in opposition to Hyper-Calvinism. Maybe hyper-arminianism is an error, but calling all Arminians to be in error in such a flippant way is not helpful or reflective of many Arminian’s position.

  10. Arminian says:

    [My first attempot to post my comments was sent to moderation, and I wonder if it is because of links I included. So I am re-posting a slightly revised version without links.]

    One of the main problems with Peterson’s view as presented here, and with Calvinism on this topic, is that “freedom of choice” is defined wrongly and illegitimately, in a way that hardly anyone thinks of as freedom of choice (“Freedom of choice or spontaneity = ‘the ability of human beings to do as they wish'”). So it is a specialized re-definition of the term crafted to make freedom of choice cohere with exhaustive divine determinism. As stated by Ben Henshaw in his excellent article, “The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture”: “To speak of a choice is to speak of an agent deciding between two or more possibilities. Again, this is the standard definition that most people take for granted when speaking of choice or the action of choosing. Where there are options to choose from there is choice. If an option is not available, then it ceases to be an “option”, and choice, in that case, ceases to be a possibility… But according to Calvinists all of our “choices” have been predetermined by God from before creation and before we were ever born or confronted with anything to choose from. If this is the case, it seems clear that “choice” is emptied of meaning. If the only course of action available for a person in any given situation is the course of action predetermined by God from eternity, then one never really has a “choice.” The person can only do what he or she must do, and think what he or she must think. The only course of action truly available is the predetermined one. If that is the only course of action truly available, then there is nothing for the person to choose from and therefore there is, in fact, no “choice” at all.”

    Interestingly, not too long ago Justin posted an interview of Calvinist scholar, John Feinberg, about his book *Ethics for a Brave New World*, in which Feinberg (and seemingly Justin along with him) actually contradicts his own Calvinistic view of freedom and relies on the Arminian view of freedom to ground moral responsibility. A commenter pointed out the contradiction in the post comments (and has a post at the Society of Evangelical Arminians website explaining the issue in little more depth), but has not been answered, seemingly because there is no answer. In that interview, one of Calvinism’s foremost modern ethicists, and seemingly with him, one of the Calvinist resurgence’s leading figures, rely on the Arminian conception of free will to ground moral accountability in apparent unwitting contradiction to Calvinism. IMO, that’s because the Arminian view is the biblical view while Calvinism does not comport with Scripture and is difficult to live out consistently because it does not successfully provide for human free will as it is found in Scripture or moral accountability.

    In light of all of this, the conclusion in 3b is wrong. It should be “Calvinism is an error.”

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      I wouldn’t assume that the lack of response was an indication that the point of that comment was irrefutable. Dr. Feinberg has written extensively on this issue (see, for example, the chapters in No One Like Him), carefully defining libertarian free will, compatibilistic freedom, hard determinism, etc. I’d point readers there for an explanation of why this isn’t a contradiction at all. The commenter ignores the distinction between moral and natural ability. Now one could argue that the distinction is unbiblical or illogical, but one can’t ignore it and hope to have provided a decisive refutation based on an oral interview when the scholar in question has written extensively on the subject. Hope that helps!

      1. Arminian says:

        Justin,

        That does help a little, but probably not enough to avoid an inescapable contradiction. For in that interview, Feinberg does define freedom in an Arminian way, as the ability to do one thing or another, or to do other than we end up doing (in his words, “nobody can be held morally accountable for failing to do what they couldn’t do. Or for doing what they couldn’t fail to do”). So are you claiming that what he (and apparently you) meant was that while nobody can be held morally accountable for failing to do what they had no natural ability to do, or for doing what they couldn’t fail to do because they had no natural ability to do otherwise, they *can* be held morally accountable for failing to do what they had no moral ability to do, or for doing what they couldn’t fail to do because they had no moral ability to do otherwise? Do you not see the obvious problem in such a position (ability to do otherwise with natural ability grounds moral accountability, but ability to do otherwise with moral ability does not ground moral accountability)? Moreover, the commenter’s point seems to remain in tact unless you are claiming that we can do with natural ability other than what God has ordained that we do. That is one of his key points that seems unassailable. We cannot do other than God predetermines that we do, whether naturally or morally. So even if one appeals to some sort of (IMO invalid) distinction between moral and natural ability, it does not preserve any sort of ability to do other than God predetermines that we do. Therefore, any apeal to the ability to do otherwise is an appeal that is inconcsistent with Calvinism.

        And that points back to the main thing that my first post addressed, that Calvinism is also inconsistent with the idea of freedom of choice, since choice involves the freedom to choose between possible alternatives. But the only possible thing one can do if Calvinism is true is that which God has predetermined one will do. One never has a genuine choice in that case.

    2. Scott C says:

      Arminian,
      Perhaps you can clarify. Are you saying that people make choices that go against their desires? Secondly, are you saying that people make choices without reason? IOW, all they have are options and they randomly choose one option over the other?

      1. Are you saying that people make choices that go against their desires?

        I didn’t “desire” to study my Latin homework, but I did it anyway. Was I acting “against” my desire to not study Latin when I studied Latin anyway?

        1. Chad Davis says:

          Yes, you were acting “against” your desires to not study Latin. But you were doing it because another of your desires (to not fail Latin) was stronger than the desire to not do homework. You were still doing what you most desired to do, so your choice – while going against a lesser desire – did not (and, it seems, never can) go against your desire. You (and I) always do what we MOST want to do.

          1. Arminian says:

            But your point here is a practically meaningless truism. Arminians do not deny that we act according to our strongest desire. As Thomas Ralston pointed out, “This is the same as saying that the prevailing motive always prevails.” As I pointed out to Brad Williams, that ultimately neither supports the Calvinistic re-definition of free will nor weighs against the Arminian (and overwhemlmingly dominant) view of free will.

        2. No, you simply had a greater desire to study Latin than not to study it. Perhaps you wanted a good grade or a good reputation, and so you trudged through study to obtain a greater desire.

          1. Arminian says:

            That does not reckon with the fact that he also had the desire to not do his Latin homework, do other things than it, etc. So he did act against some of his desires. Your response go against something we all know and have experienced, having conflicting desires that we choose from as to which one we will follow. Chad Davies gives a better response, but it is one that ultimately neither supports the Calvinistic re-definition of free will nor weighs against the Arminian (and overwhemlmingly dominant) view of free will

            1. Yes, it does. It means that ultimately, you do whatever you desire. Everyone has an order of priority. I don’t want to give you my money, but I might if you put a gun to my head b/c I value my life over my wallet.

              You always choose the thing you desire most, or the path that you think will lead you there, even if that means lesser sacrifices of “pleasures” to get you to your chief end.

              As a side note, I’m surprised to hear that this is a “Calvinistic” viewpoint.

              1. Arminian says:

                But I pointed out above in this section of the thread coming out of Billy Birch’s comment that it is *not* a Calvinistic viewpoint. The problem is that many Calvinists have attempted to use it to support Calvinism when it doesn’t. What is Calvinistic is redefining freedom to mean merely “the ability of human beings to do as they wish” whether or not one has a choice about one does, whether or not what one wishes has been predetermined by another so that one cannot do other than one has been predetermined by another to do (i.e., again, whether or not one has a choice about what one does).

              2. “You always choose the thing you desire most, or the path that you think will lead you there, even if that means lesser sacrifices of “pleasures” to get you to your chief end.”

                Then it seems people can have the desire to do their duty and not pursue their self-interest. Asserting that people always act on their strongest desire is just tautology that reduces to the trivial statement “people always act on the motive they act upon.” So what?

      2. Arminian says:

        “Are you saying that people make choices that go against their desires?”

        No, though Billy Birch pointed out how we certainly do make choices against some of our desires. But I suspect you mean in the sense that Chad Davis speaks, of acting against our strongest desire. So Billy is right that we do act against our desires. But I don’t think he means we ever act against our greatest desire, which is probably what you were getting at.

        “Secondly, are you saying that people make choices without reason? IOW, all they have are options and they randomly choose one option over the other?”

        No. The Arminian view does not entail that.

        Are you saying that someone has freedom to choose when what he does has been predetermined bu God and he cannot do other than he does? Not being able to do other than one does is pretty much the definition of not having a choice.

        1. Arminian,

          Are you an open theist? If not, why not? Even if you define foreknowledge in an Arminian way, God still knows the outcome of all events. If He knows what will come to pass, then it cannot be otherwise, and if you cannot act other than what God has foreseen, it would appear that you really don’t have a choice at all.

          1. Arminian says:

            No, I’m not an open theist. God knowing the outcome of events does not mean they *could not* be otherwise, but that they *will not* be otherwise. You are equivocating certainty with necessity. Something can be certain without being necessary. That is well recognized. Since God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is based on what people will actually do freely, his foreknowledge does not mean that people could not do otherwise. Whatever their choice will be, God’s foreknowledge will mirror that. So it is a mistake to say that their choice could not be otherwise because God has foreknowledge of it.

            So Arminianism, is consistent with people having choices. But your final comment helps to show that Calvinism isn’t. According to Calvinism, we can’t do othert than we do. Therefore, we don;t have a choice about anything. And that should lead us all to say, therefore, Calvinism is false and at odds with Scrioture. which presents us with having many choices.

            1. Arminian,

              You said that something can be certain without being necessary and that this is well known. Tell that to the Open Theists!

              I feel as if I need to explain my understanding of choice about like you need to explain your understanding of foreknowledge to an Open Theist. From my point of view, your claiming that God’s certain knowledge of an event somehow allows for something to be “otherwise” is no less odd than my claiming that men make real choices that are both foreseen and ordained of God.

              1. Arminian says:

                But the difference between certainty and necessity is well recognized. If open theists don’t recognize it, that doesn’t invalidate it or somehow make it not well recognized. They think Calvinism is wrong too. One can easily look in the dictionary and see that certainty and necessity are not the same thing.

                On the other hand, your position that we have a choice when God predetermines everythinhg we think, feel or do is a flat out contradiction and obviously so. In other words, there is no copmarison between saying that God can know what we will do before we do it without causing us to do it (something most Chrsitians have believed) and believing that God predetermines what we will do and tha ttherefore we can’t do other than we do, yet we have a choice about what we do. The Arminian view here is based on a well-recognized and easily demonstrated distinction between two different concepts, whereas the Calvinist view holds that we have a choice about doing that which we cannot do anything other than we do, which is pretty much the definition of not having a choice. So I really do think your claim is the only odd one of the two, indeed incoherent. But of course, that is my opinion.

                God bless.

              2. Arminian,

                I hereby challenge you to prove that you have real choices according to your own definitions: Do something God has not foreseen you doing, since you can do something other than what God has foreseen you will do.

              3. Arminian says:

                Your challenge shows a complete misunderstanding of my position and is invalid. We cannot do other than God knows we will do because his foreknowledge mirrors what we will do. You ignored what I said: Since God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is based on what people will actually do freely, his foreknowledge does not mean that people could not do otherwise than they do. Whatever their choice will be, God’s foreknowledge will mirror that. If we had chosen differently, then God’s foreknowledge would have been different. So it is a mistake to say we cannot choose other than we do because God has foreknowledge of it. It won’t be wrong because it mirrors what we will do. It is not my position that we can get God’s foreknowledge to be wrong. It is that he can know what we will choose without necessitating that we act as we do.

              4. Arminian,

                My challenge was tongue in cheek; I should have added a smiley face for comfort.

                I do, however, find your argument completely unpersuasive. First, the idea of “freedom” that you posit is impossible. God cannot foresee a decision or a future in which He is not already intimately involved. No matter what future He foresees, He must also be actively involved in that future in persuading the hearts of men. This is undeniable from Scripture.

                Secondly, your understanding of “resistable” brings up more questions than it solves. In the future that is foreseeable by God, does He take into account how many resistable pressures it takes to get the future that He foreknows? Does He, or does He not, control them? In other words, if God knows it will take “x” number of resistable factors for a man to come to a “free” decision, does He back off before His influence becomes decisive?

                It seems a very convoluted way to deny what Scripture makes explicit, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). And really, that is where the problem lies for me. God has a determined elect. God has chosen us based on His own good pleasure and not any foreseen merit in our persons. God has declared the beginning from the end. Nowhere do I see any Scripture that remotely sounds like God’s knowledge of the future is like a great sounding board that is just a bouncing back to Him of acts over which He did not exert sovereign control.

              5. Arminian says:

                I likewise find your position completely unpersuasive. But I don’t deny that God is intimately involved in the future that he foresees. Indeed, his own actions in our future are also part of his foreknowledge. I agree that God is active in our future in persuading the hearts of men. None of that stands against the Arminian view.

                Your comments about resistibility are also unpersuasive. You seem to beg the question, assuming that there resuistible factors that will *necessarily* get the person to make decision “x”. But that assumes determinism and that irresistible causes are in play.

                Your citation of Proverbs 21:1 is also unpersuasive. The proverb does not mean that God controls everything that the king does, but that he can, one possible meaning of the Hebrew, what would be called in terms of grammar, a potential imperfect. Moreover, proverbs are short sayings of general truth and often poetically phrased. Even apart from the grammatical point that the verb could be used to indicate potential action, the genre of Proverbs would certainly open up taking the proverb in essentially the same way. Or another way to think of it would be that it speaks of God’s sovereignty over the human heart. He can turn it whatever way he wants, including allowing it to be free.

                Let me give you just one example of the potential sense use of the verb. Proverbs 16:10 says, “An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment. (ESV). Your manner of interpretation would lead us to conclude from this that kings never sin in judgment. But that is undeniably untrue. But Proverbs by their nature do not list every possible exception, and sometimes simply commend certain ideals, or warn of potential negative consequences of certain behaviors, etc. More examples from Proverbs could be supplied. All of this is to say that Prov 21:1 is simply not a good proof text for exhaustive determinism. Certainly it could go along quite well with a doctrine of exhaustive divine determinism, but it does not require or prove or even suggest such a doctrine.

                And of course there is still the blatant contradiction of your view that we have a choice when we cannot avoid doing what we do because it has been predetermined by God not to mention Scripture’s presenting people as having and making choices.

              6. Arminian,

                Fortunately, I studied Hebrew for three years in school and have used it in ministry since. There is a reason that almost every translation agrees with the ESV. It simply means that the heart of the King is in the hand of the Lord, and the Lord directs it wherever he pleases. That Proverbs means something, even if it is only in general, it means that God sovereignly directs the heart of the King.

                As for Prov. 16:10, it also means something. Even if it is only a general statement, it means something.

                I was only cherry picking one obvious verse that overthrows your understanding of “free will.” I mentioned many other things that you cannot answer with your view. Especially interesting is the fact that Judas was ordained to betray Jesus. This was not simply mere foresight, but the ordination of God. The language is clear.

                I believe that this idea of “free choice” is simply over-rated. That is, the reason that choice even exists points to the fact that the will is fragmented and divided and cannot see that which is truly good. If we could see the perfect, then there would be no choice.

                I do have a choice. I have made my choices, and I am responsible for them. I have also only and always done that which God has ordained to come to pass. He has declared the end from the beginning.

                I guess, in the end, I simply treasure God’s sovereignty more than my own freedom. I would rather be His puppet than live in the free bastion of my own making. I am contented and glad that He is pulling all the strings. So was the church of Acts, by “overwhelming majority” (Acts 4:24-28). Everything happened as God had predestined to take place. That’s what the Bible says, not what Calvinists say.

              7. Arminian says:

                You did not learn Hebrew well enough if you do not know tha the imperfect can be used of potneitality or capability. The usage can be found in standard grammars. Do I need to cite some? You beg the question by saying the text means something. I said what I think it means. It means that God is sovereign and can direct the heart of the king if he so pleases. It also implicitly advises that the king should be submissive to God’s will and yield to his direction.

                As for Proverbs 16:10, of course it means something. But your interpretation is lacking. You seem to think it means that kings generally do not err (or sin)in judgment. Really? It is undeniable that kings throughout history have sinned more than not in their judgment. Just thinkl about Israel’s kings. You again beg the question with comments like, it means something. Of course it does. It means that kings should not err in judgment, using what is called an obligative imperfect (as the NASB, NIV,a nd NET translations opt for). And should we apply your interpretation of it to Proverbs 21:1 ot mean that God generaly directs the kings heart, but very often not? Tat would eliminate the verse from support for exhaustive determinism, which is what you cited it for in the first place.

                You said that you brought up many things that I cannot answer with my view. I didn’t see any.

                You mention that Judas was ordained to betray Jesus. No he wasn’t. What was ordained was that Jesus would be crucified etc. The specifics of how that happened could have been different. And indeed, God’s ordination of such things was also contingent on free human choices. The text just doesn;t say what you need it to say, that *Judas* was predestined to do what he did or that he was necessitated to do it, etc. Moreover, even if he was, that would not even come close to establishing *exhaustive* divine determinism. Pointing to one case of determinism would in no way suggests that God predetermines all things. That would be a pretty big and unjustfied leap in logic.

                You continue to say you have a choice when your doctrine is completely contradictory to that statement, holding that you cannot avoid doing what you do, that you can only do that which you do. But not being able to do anyhting other than you do is pretty much the definition of not having a choice. This is what Calvinism demands, holding to incoherent statements.

                You can try to sound noble by saying in the end you treasure God’s soveriengty more than freedom, but I could equally say that I treasure the word of God more than determinism since Scripture is at complete odds with exhaustive determinism, reveals human beings as having free will, and having and making choices. There is no Scripture that says that God has predstined all tha takes place. There are very few that can even be appealed to for such a doctrine. And the ones that are typically appealed to simply do not say that. So it turns out that it is what Calvinists say in contradiction to what Scripture says.

          2. Matt says:

            “Since God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is based on what people will actually do freely, his foreknowledge does not mean that people could not do otherwise. Whatever their choice will be, God’s foreknowledge will mirror that.”

            So were God’s promises throughout Scripture based on His foreknowledge of what would happen or based on what He caused to happen?

            1. Arminian says:

              It depends on the promise. If they are about free choices people will make, then they are more based on his foreknowledge, though even those free human choices are typically based though not necessitated on what he causes to happen (e.g., we could not believe in Jesus’s death for our sins if he did not send Jesus to die for our sins). However, many times they are about what God himself will do (e.g., God has promised to save those who believe in Jesus; that promise is about what he will do). Often, it may be both; God might promise something that he alone will do in response to free human choices. God is awesome and able to act in various ways, whether unilaterally or contingently, and certainly in response to what people freely do.

        2. Scott C says:

          My point is people never choose things they don’t want to choose. In the end every choice is a choice that person “desires” to make. Are there conflicting desires? Yes, but the most compelling desire determines the choice.

          This is fully compatible with Calvinism because Calvinism is not determinism. Calvinism is concerned to understand motivations in choices made. If the Bible describes the unbeliever as dead in sin and a slave to sin, then this condition provides the underlying motivation for the unbeliever’s choices. Apart from regeneration, an unbeliever will not believe because he has no compelling desire to believe. Regeneration changes a person’s heart and mind such that they now have a compelling reason to believe (i.e. a compelling desire/ motivation) that they did not have before.

          1. Arminian says:

            You said, “My point is people never choose things they don’t want to choose. In the end every choice is a choice that person “desires” to make.”

            But that is an unobjectionable point. As I mentioned to Chad Davis,your point here is a practically meaningless truism. Arminians do not deny that we act according to our strongest desire. As Thomas Ralston pointed out, “This is the same as saying that the prevailing motive always prevails.” As I pointed out to Brad Williams, that ultimately neither supports the Calvinistic re-definition of free will nor weighs against the Arminian (and overwhemlmingly dominant) view of free will.

            The question really comes down to what makes the most compelling desire most compelling. The Calvinist says that God does. The Arminian says that determining what the strongest motive is is of the essence of free will.

            You said that Calvinism is not determinism. That is technically true, but Calvinism is deterministic. Divine determinism is one of Calvinism’s tenets. So Calvinism is inconsistent with having choices.

            As I asked you, are you saying that someone has freedom to choose when what he does has been predetermined by God and he cannot do other than he does? Not being able to do other than one does is pretty much the definition of not having a choice.

            1. Scott C says:

              You say my understanding of the will is unobjectionable, but then you proceed to undermine this conception. Although I have trouble seeing precisely how you are articulating your conception of free will it seems you are saying the following: Free will is the power to make choices contrary to any determining factors. IOW, free will consists solely in the very power of making choices. Choices have no necessary connection to antecedents causes (i.e. motivations, desires, external constraints, etc…). Correct me if I am wrong. I need clarity here, because this sounds like the classic view of libertarianism.

              Furthermore, bringing in the question of divine election muddies the waters. It makes more sense to me to discuss that after articulating a clear definition of free will.

              1. Arminian says:

                I am representing libertarianism, but there is more than one version of it, and the better ones do not hold that we make choices without any reasons. Arminians don’t believe that choices are without cause, but rather that they are sufficiently self-determined (the result of rational personal deliberation). A person chooses to do one thing or another because of whatever reason(s) the person decided was the best to follow. So there may be any number of resistible causes/reasons that form the basis of a person’s choice, but none irresistibly cause the person’s choice. They cause it resistibly. You appear to beg the question for your own position by assuming determinism and that some ecause irresistibly causes us to choose as we do. You assume that there must be an irrsistibly determining factor besides the person himself and his will.

                Also, I did not bring in the question of divine election, but of divine determinism. And that is at the heart of the question.

              2. Scott C says:

                Can a person’s free will lead to a life in which they never make sinful choices? IOW, in your view is it theoretically possible to always choose the good such that it meets God’s criteria for holiness?

              3. Arminian says:

                No, while a believer, for example, might be able to choose the good in each instance he faces, he cannot practically always choose the good just like a skilled basketball player might be able to hit each free throw he takes, but he could not hit 10,000 in a row. This is what Wesleyan theologian Daniel Whedon called distributive freedom vs. collective necessity. Distributively or individually, “each particular case is held possible, but not all cases together [i.e., collectively]” (Whedon, *The Freedom of the Will*, p. 132). I qualified with believers because unbelievers cannot fully meet God’s criteria for holiness at all, since that requires faith, and by definition unbelievers do not have faith. Still, by common grace unbelievers can choose not to commit any particular sin and to do relative good, though not good that meets God’s criteria for holiness, and again, not perfectly/collectively.)

              4. Scott C says:

                Arminian, a few questions:
                We know it is “practically” impossible for a person to hit 10,000 free throws in a row. In the same way, this might be true with regard to sin; that is it is “practically” impossible for a person to live a whole day much less a whole life without committing some sin. But under your definition of free will is it not “theoretically” possible to be sinless just as it is theoretically possible to hit 10,000 consecutive free throws (my sons wish they could do this – :))? IOW, is not “theoretically” possible that an unbeliever could commit nothing but acts of “relative good”?

                Secondly, are you saying that a lack of faith is the ONLY reason why an unbeliever cannot meet God’s criteria for holiness?

            2. Arminian says:

              Scott said: But under your definition of free will is it not “theoretically” possible to be sinless just as it is theoretically possible to hit 10,000 consecutive free throws (my sons wish they could do this – :))? IOW, is not “theoretically” possible that an unbeliever could commit nothing but acts of “relative good”?

              **** No, unbelievers are tainted by sinfulness in all they do even if all they do is not specifically sin. So they are sinful in their state. Moreover, disbelief is itself sin, so by definition unbelievers are in sin. But that having been said, I would point out that something that is impossible practically is still impossible. One could put it as theoretically possible but practically impossible, but the emphasis is really on the impossible. It is impossible for any morally accountable person besides Christ to never sin. Even though an unbeliever never has to commit a particular sin, he can’t put together a life of never sinning. To quote Whedon again, “each particular case is held possible, but not all cases together.”

              Scott said: “Secondly, are you saying that a lack of faith is the ONLY reason why an unbeliever cannot meet God’s criteria for holiness?”

              No.

              1. Scott C says:

                Ah, you failed me here – :)! I was expecting more than a no answer on the second question. Regarding the answer to the first question, without further clarification (perhaps a positive answer to the second question?) I am not convinced your view of free will precludes the theoretical possibility of one freely making choices of never sinning since the you give such autonomous power to the will as absolutely and unequivocally self-determining.

              2. Arminian says:

                I don’t give autonomous power to the will as absolutely and unequivocally self-determining. Our free will is limited and derived from God. But insofar as it is free, it is not *determined* specifically by anything other than the person exercising it. It may be confined to a framework of possibilities and influenced by any number of influences. But it is nonsense to say that it is free if it is determined by someone other than the person exercising it. In that case it would not be our will, but the will of the determiner.

                As for my one word answer to question 2, I figure you can ask if you are looking for something specific.

      3. “Are you saying that people make choices that go against their desires?”

        Why is that so crazy? People do it all the time. I have the desire to eat cookies for supper. Instead I eat my green beans. To say that my strongest desire was really to eat green beans is to beg the question and merely state a trivial point: we always act on the motive that we act on!

        1. Scott C says:

          You ate your green beans because you knew this was the wiser choice. Sure, you’d rather eat the cookies BUT (notice the caps for emphasis) you DON’T WANT to go on that 7 month diet when your jeans just don’t seem to snap around your waist anymore. This scenario forms the more compelling reason for why you decided to eat the greens beans instead (you can personalize more if you).

          In the end, the most compelling desires are what motivates your decisions. I say this is what comports with reality. Libertarianism wants to say that choices are random in the end. I say nobody does what they don’t want to do and this has profound implications for how we understand depravity, regeneration, election, and human responsibility. IOW, it comports with compatibilism.

          1. Arminian says:

            You seem to have missed Adam’s point. You say, “In the end, the most compelling desires are what motivates your decisions.” But Adam pointed out (as I already had) that this begs the question by merely stating a trivial (and unobjectionable) point: we always act on the motive that we act on! Or as I mentioned earlier with the words of Thomas Ralston, “the prevailing motive always prevails.” That is a simple truism/tautology. As I said, that ultimately neither supports the Calvinistic re-definition of free will nor weighs against the Arminian (and overwhemlmingly dominant) view of free will. The question really comes down to what makes the most compelling desire most compelling. The Calvinist says that God does (which would leave us as sophisticated puppets with no free will). The Arminian says that determining what the strongest motive is is of the essence of free will.

            The best versions of libertarianism do not hold that choices are random. That is just a misunderstanding. As I said earlier, Arminians don’t believe that choices are without cause, but rather that they are sufficiently self-determined (the result of rational personal deliberation). A person chooses to do one thing or another because of whatever reason(s) the person decided was the best to follow. So there may be any number of resistible causes/reasons that form the basis of a person’s choice, but none irresistibly cause the person’s choice. They cause it resistibly. You appear to beg the question for your own position by assuming determinism and that some cause irresistibly causes us to choose as we do. You assume that there must be an irresistibly determining factor besides the person himself and his will.

            1. Scott C says:

              “The Arminian says that determining what the strongest motive is is of the essence of free will.”

              Perhaps my point has not be well stated. I have at this stage not discussed causes, only motives for choices. But your statement leads me in this direction. I suggest to you that it is our nature that determines our choices not our will. Our fundamental nature determines the sorts of motives we have that in turn determines the choices we make. You seem to suggest that the power of the will itself determines motives (instead of vice versa) and subsequently the will can apparently change our natures too.

              So if I understand correctly, our views of the will are backwards (i.e. they mirror each other in a diametrical way). I say our natures are at the causal root of our motives and thus of our choices and you seem to be saying that the will alone is the cause of our choices and subsequently determines motives and thus our natures. I give ultimate power to human nature and you give ultimate power to the will which thru the power of self-determination can do anything including make theoretical decisions to never sin or always choose the good. Recourse to probabilities by-passes the issue. I say it is impossible to choose true good because our natures don’t allow us to do so. You say we can choose good (perhaps via choosing faith) simply because we have the power of absolute determination.

              To carry the issue further, yes God determines in the very ultimate sense the choices all men make, yet in a way that maintains human responsibility for our natures. Again, we never make choices we don’t want to. We will never stand before God and say I was forced to do what I didn’t want to do. Rather it will be true that we always agree with whatever forces determine our choices (and this is part of my main point). This is at the heart of compatibilism which I believe comports better with scripture and human experience.

              So let me ask you some other questions.
              Did Pilate have absolute self-determination to release or convict Jesus to death?

              Does God have free will? More pointedly, is God able to make choices that affect human affairs? Even more pointedly, how is God able to make choices that stand without interfering with the choices of men?

              For example, if God chose for Christ to die on the eve of Passover and at 3:00 in the afternoon (as it happens, at the time of the first Passover sacrifice of lambs in the temple), how does He do this with out manipulating the choices of multitudes of people including the Sanhedrin, Pilate, the arresting soldiers, his disciples, the Jewish crowds, etc.?

              1. Arminian says:

                Scott said: “Perhaps my point has not be well stated. I have at this stage not discussed causes, only motives for choices. But your statement leads me in this direction.”

                **** Ok, but what you quoted from me talked about motives.

                Scott said: “I suggest to you that it is our nature that determines our choices not our will. Our fundamental nature determines the sorts of motives we have that in turn determines the choices we make.

                **** That seems obviously false on the face of it, that we do not choose according to our desire. And it contradicts compatibilism, the Calvinistic view you are trying to espouse. What you probably want to say is that our nature determines our will, and therefore our choices (i.e. nature determines will, which in turn determines choice). In that case, we would be pretty close, except that I would point out that our God-given nature includes the capacity for free choice and choosing among various conflicting motives which motive we will follow. But your position does not make sense here, because our fundamental nature does not determine our *specific* actions. Human beings all have the same fundamental human nature. But this does not explain teach person’s specific actions. People act in many different specific ways. While their nature may set some limits for the range of their choices, it is their free will that explains their specific choices from what their nature allows for. Also, discussion of motives on this topic typically refers to motives in the sense of reasons or inducements for action, not goals so much (except insofar as reasons and inducements have some sort of goal in view).

                Scott said: “You seem to suggest that the power of the will itself determines motives (instead of vice versa) and subsequently the will can apparently change our natures too.”

                **** No, what I mean is that we have the power to assess motives/reasons for acting, and to determine which we will follow. That is, our will does not create the motives, but we can weight the competing motives we have rather than the motives having some sort of intrinsic, objective weight that forces us to act one way or another.

                Scott said: “So if I understand correctly, our views of the will are backwards (i.e. they mirror each other in a diametrical way). I say our natures are at the causal root of our motives and thus of our choices and you seem to be saying that the will alone is the cause of our choices and subsequently determines motives and thus our natures. I give ultimate power to human nature and you give ultimate power to the will which thru the power of self-determination can do anything including make theoretical decisions to never sin or always choose the good. Recourse to probabilities by-passes the issue. I say it is impossible to choose true good because our natures don’t allow us to do so. You say we can choose good (perhaps via choosing faith) simply because we have the power of absolute determination.”

                **** No, see my answers above for clarification. Beyond that, my view if more complex. Our natures do set limits on our desires and our choices, but do not cause our specific choices as our will does. There is also our character, which certainly impacts our choices and can be impacted by our choices. I say agree we can’t choose true good because of our natures, but maintain that we can choose true God when God frees us to do so. So we are not free to choose true good on our own, but are free to choose true good if and when God enables us to do so. But let’s be clear, your view has us as not free and with no choice at any time (since God predetermines all that we think, feel, and do, and therefore we cannot do anything other than we do, cannot avoid doing the one thing God predetermined we do, can only do one thing, leaving no true choice) whereas my view does allow for God-enabled freedom and genuine choice.

                Scott said: “To carry the issue further, yes God determines in the very ultimate sense the choices all men make, yet in a way that maintains human responsibility for our natures.”

                **** This is an incoherent statement, that God predetermines our choices. If God predetermines it, then we can only do that one thing he predetermines, and we therefore have no choice. Not being able to do other than we do is pretty much the definition of not having a choice. we could put it in various ways, not being able to avoid doing what we do, being necessitated to do what we do, having to do what we do, etc. – all of it leaves us without a choice. We have no choice about doing what we do because we cannot do other than we do.

                Scott said: “Again, we never make choices we don’t want to. We will never stand before God and say I was forced to do what I didn’t want to do. Rather it will be true that we always agree with whatever forces determine our choices (and this is part of my main point). This is at the heart of compatibilism which I believe comports better with scripture and human experience.”

                **** In accordance with my immediately preceding comments, compatibilism, as you are presenting it is simply incoherent as it maintains we have a choice when we have to do what we dod and cannot avoid doing what we do since, according to Calvinistic compatibilism, God has predetermined it. Your compatibilism basically claims that we have a choice about what we do even though we don’t have a choice about what we do.

                Before going further and expanding the conversation by me answering more questions, perhaps you should look at this relatively concise and incisive treatment of the issue of motives as it relates to free will to understand my view more and clear up some of your misunderstanding of my position: http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/328

              2. Scott C says:

                Now can you also answer the last several questions I asked?

              3. Arminian says:

                Scott asked: “Did Pilate have absolute self-determination to release or convict Jesus to death?”

                **** What do you mean by “absolute”? I clarified to you in another part of the thread that I don’t, as you put it, give autonomous power to the will as absolutely and unequivocally self-determining. But it really seems to be unclear what you mean by absolute.

                Scott asked: “Does God have free will?”

                **** Of course. Now he has “absolute” free will, as opposed to us who have derived free will, or granted free will, or contingent free will, or limited free will.

                Scott asked: “More pointedly, is God able to make choices that affect human affairs?”

                **** Of course. That seems a silly question. Even human beings can make choices that affect human affairs.

                Scott asked: “Even more pointedly, how is God able to make choices that stand without interfering with the choices of men?”

                **** Well, first, he can make choices that interfere with the choices of men. He’s God and can do what he wants. There are many choices he makes that interfere with the choices of men. But second, it is quite easy to see how he could make choices that stand without interfering with the choices of men. He can make choices that respond to the choices of men and he can make choices that force men to respond however they might choose to his choices. But it is probably important for you to realize that it is not like Arminians believe that God can never override human free will or interfere with it or limit it or prevent it. I have no problem thinking he overrides it often. The point would be that when he does, then we are not free and not responsible for whatever he would irresistibly cause us to do. It is not like human free will is sacrosanct. it is just necessary for moral accountability and genuine relationship and love. And so it serves the glory of God as he is most glorified in us when we are freely most satisfied in him.

                Scott asked: “For example, if God chose for Christ to die on the eve of Passover and at 3:00 in the afternoon (as it happens, at the time of the first Passover sacrifice of lambs in the temple), how does He do this with out manipulating the choices of multitudes of people including the Sanhedrin, Pilate, the arresting soldiers, his disciples, the Jewish crowds, etc.?”

                **** I happen to think God’s involvement in the affairs of men is intimate and complex. He uses his foreknowledge of what will will freely do to maker plans, and he uses his hypothetical knowledge based on his knowledge of people’s hearts about how they would act in a given situation. And he is all-powerful and all-wise and all-knowing. . So it is easy to see how he could get something to happen at a specific time. He certainly did not put it into the hearts of the Jewish leaders to murder his son. But God did send Jesus into a situation in which the power hungry Jewish leaders would naturally be threatened by Jesus and want to do away with him. So they were already going to put Jesus to death. I have no trouble thinking God might irresistibly cause them to set the time of their proceedings to ultimately bring the crucifixion to coincide with the Passover sacrifice. They wouldn’t be responsible for the mere timing of the their proceedings, but certainly were responsible for having them at all and for what happened in them. God would not even necessarily have to irresistibly cause such minor things. He could have influenced their minds towards that without it being irresistible as well, perhaps brought the thought of the timing to mind in an attractive but resistible way. if that would not get the timing he wanted, he could move to irresistible causation. But either would be fine. One could go on with any number of details that God could at times irresistibly cause and others merely influence. But really, it is easy to see how such an awesome God could bring about timing of sinful human choices without irresistibly causing the sinful actions. He is dynamically involved with the affairs of men, and he can act in the midst of the free choices of men to direct their choices to accomplish many of his purposes.

          2. “In the end, the most compelling desires are what motivates your decisions.”

            This is just a tautology. True, but trivial.

            “Libertarianism wants to say that choices are random in the end.”

            That misrepresents libertarianism. It just denies is that our are choices are best described as “free” only if our desires are causally determined. It allows us to cultivate the desires for duty (like eating veggies instead of cookies) by training and discipline. That isn’t random at all.

            “I say nobody does what they don’t want to do and this has profound implications for how we understand depravity, regeneration, election, and human responsibility. IOW, it comports with compatibilism.”

            How are we responsible for our desires if we don’t in some way determine them?

  11. Gary Horn says:

    “God’s Choice” and “Our Responsibility” are parallel lines that meet in the mind of God.

    My hope is in God, who is a righteous and just Judge.

  12. Ron Francis says:

    G.I. Williamson’s Study on the Westminster Confession of Faith is a good supplement to this discussion. He writes extensively on this issue. Dates back to 1964 and spares no punches.

    It’s also useful to listen or read S Lewis Johnson’s sermons related to free will and election and God’s attributes.

  13. Jose says:

    This is an excellent book, written with warmth, clarity, and conviction. Pastors and non-pastors will appreciate it.

  14. The trouble with the hyper-calvinism term/epithet is that it depends upon whose meaning you are using. My pastor who ordained me, Dr. Ernest R. Campbell (Ph.D. Bob Jones) would tell you taht he was a hyper-calvinist, a supralapsarian, and do it from he publpit and in personal conversation, and yet he was a soul-winner par excellence, the founder of the American Race Trck Chaplaincy (cf. Who’s Who in Religion. 2nd edn. Chicago: Marquis Pubs., 1977). I have know Arminians who were no more soul winners than some so-called primitive Baptists. Terms often amount to a waste of words. And then therewere Primitves who were soul winners, too. Contradictions, it would seem.

  15. JOE says:

    THE WILL IS REGULATED BY THE NATURE. AW PINK

  16. I hold to what Bro. Pink taught with but some exceptions on his chapter on reprobation (which I understand he wanted dropped from the Banner of Truth edition). In any case, I had the opportunity to che ck out his quote from Bunyan’s sermon on reprobation. Suggest that you all check it out. A personal friend, REv. William Schillinger was going to pay for the publication of Pink’s first work, the Gospel of John. Rev. Schillinger delivered the battle plans to Patton’s g-2 two weeks before the battle of the Bulge which is why Patton could say he would have his army out of the battle line and on the road to Bastogne (he could becaue he had been preparing fot it). Rev. Schillinger was a German speaking American, one line of descent through the Moravians at Salem, NC, and the other from Germany. The family with whom he was taying, gave him the maps, saying the other arm y left them there. He recognized taht they were plans for a battle. So Patton had the Germa Battle plans before the Bulge. Always nice to have the plans before they strike. God does marvelous things. The general of the War Dept. who investigated the Little Big Horn in 1876-77 was member of Rev. Schillinger’s firt church in N.J. I am always amazed at what God will do for his people even though the Bible tells me such things before hand. Amazing grace…..

  17. John Hoppe says:

    What glory would it be if God made us Love him, would you want someone to love you because you made them and directed them to or would you want them to love you on their own, I believe that is why we have free will, because what glory would it bring the Lord if he made us love him!

  18. My, John says, “We love him, BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.”(I JN.4:19). Well, actually that is the Holy spirit of God, speaking through John, saying, “We love God, because he first loved us.” Reminds me of the professor of Hebrew at SEBTS who asked me why I beieved in irresistible grace, and I said, “Well, if you will look at Ps.65:4, I believe you will find that it is in the Hiphil.” *Blessed is the Man who you choose and cause to approach unto Thee”. He looked at the text in his Heb. text, and he said, “Your right!” He closed his Bible, and never again said another word to me about the issue or my beliefs, though he had signed an Abstract of Principles which absolutely required that one believe in Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace. Those of us who have known something of the depths of depravity, inability, helplessness, and hopelessness, of slavery to sin, and the terror of judgment are the ones who can really appreciate the message rugged old John Newton set forth in his Amazing Grace. Like the missionary who found the prostitutes and people like that who cared nothing for the message of the love of God, but they were won with the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty. Personally, I think a lot of these Arminians never faced up to the horrors of sin and the very Hell it involves right here on earth. When I look back on my atheism days, I see a frightful, seething mass of hareds, murderous rages, a threat and a danger to every human around me and including me. Jesus did not call us, “a generation of vipers,” for nothing. And yes, I am applying his term for the those of his day to my own miserable days of depravity. Some one well asked, after stating, “well reconciling an enemy, I can understand, but how do you reconcile, ENMITY?” In other words, how does one reach the unsoluble clod and the insensible rock? The flame that can melt the hardest steel, material, the flame of God’s love can melt the most adamantine heart. The woman said to a friend of mine named Spurgeon, regarding his soul winning message of Christ, “O, it was so wonderful, I could not resist it.” It took him 40 more years to realize taht he did believe like his more famous relative that Grace is irresistible which is what he thought of (I had just told him about it being irresistible a short time before) at that moment the woman said what she did. God is gloriously funny and patient with us his children. I praise His blessed name.

    1. Clarification Dave says:

      I am so glad that you have received and been changed by His glorious grace.

      Now, how does that wondrous work of grace apply in the topic being discussed here.

      Was the horror and depravity that grace had to change come about by God determining your nature by Him shaping the specificity of horrors and depravities for which you are responsible? Or did you have a hand in initiating the specifics of your rebellion? Did God determine all things around you in such a way that you would commit the specific rebellions according to His good pleasure? Or did sinful others and your sinful self initiate that which shaped your complex though whole sinful nature which then resulted in sinful choices?

      Arminians would say that the sinful you and sinful others initiated the horrors of rebellion and say that God only ONLY permitted them (in the real sense of permission, not some re-jiggered deterministic persmission that strips permissiveness from permission).

      Just wondering while also being pleased that grace has appeared and changed you.

  19. God ordains all things whatsoever shal come to pass, but the only person I blame for my sins is myself…..and no one else. I am responsible though unable or disabled by the very sins I have committed to the point that only a Sovereign Act of God can deliver me. You can rant all you like about God permitting, and if you will go back and read your calvinists a little more carefully you will find that they have some things to say about it that John Wesley and Jacobus Arminius could not have said any better. Old John Gill said it well, God treats the wicked so well that no man in his right mind will condemn God for sending such people to Hell, including those who are so ungodly sure that they will toss God out of control for the sake of man’s free will. God is a a little god indeed, if He can be big enough to manage free will and let the will act freely, and then deal with it after it loses its freedom and is a slave, something you never face in all your comments. AND THE ONLY THING THAT CONCERNS US WHO HAVE BEEN IN SUCH DEPTHS OF DEPRAVITY AND SEEN ITS HORRIBLE EFFECTS…WHILE THE SWEET PEOPLE WHO COME OUT OF THE MOST FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES NEVER SEE, EXCEPT BE A GIT OF DIVINE GRACE, THE MONSTER WITHIN (ECCLE.9:3). God can and does decree a thing to come to pass and in such a manner that the person freely wills and chooses what he pleases and the results flow from it accordingly, and in the end the results will be as God has ordained, including all the changes appertaining thereunto to bring to pass His salvic purposes. Did you never read where John Wesley admitted that there wee some chosen, that God did irresistibly save them and that they would persevere…he did it to the point so he could work with George. After all John was quite wanting in some things too. In fact, he used language about winning people to Christ that were in the realm of force, irresistibility, etc, that some calvinists would not use. esides he was duty bound to believe such due to the 39 Articles written by calvinists in the 1500s. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Old Rome still has conniption kitties over the failure of its minions to win over every one to a partial and not a total fall and ruin.

  20. Rey Reynoso says:

    @Arminian, you’ve been doing a good job in here. I don’t know how you can keep going though, lol.

    1. Arminian says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! It’s been time consuming, too much so. And there are still a couple posts I have not responded to, but I wonder if I should take the time to do so.

      God bless!

  21. I wrote an answer to the above comment, and feel to tired to try again. The Arminian wastes time. There are plenty of Calvinists who say things that are better said that John Wesley and Jacobus Arminius could say them. I never blamed anyone but me for my sins, but I am utterly unable to do anything about them. Only God can…and that depends clearly on His sovereign choice. He doesn’t owe it to me and He doesn’t leave it to my choice. John Wesley wanted God to use force which is what He did in my case, opening the door of my heart as He did Lydia’s heart. I have a friend who was literally knocked out of his chair at the dinner table and lit on his knees praying for salvation. Just what John would have wanted. God ordains all things whatsoever shall come to pass, including the sins, and yet in such a way hat the only person respionsible is the person doing the sin…that is all we can say about it at this point. What gives us hope is that God took the worst man ever did, the death of Christ on the cross and made that the hope of eternal life. That means for me that even my sins, including the worst of them, can be forgiven and a new life provided for me. AND IT SURE AIN’T ME DOING THE DECIDING OR CLAIM ANY OF THE CREDIT…WHICH IS WHAT THE GREAT HYMN AMAZING GRACE DOES – GIVING GOD ALL THE PRAISE FOR ALL OF THE WORK, WRITTEN BY A CALVINIST. Mr. Taylor stepped on a lot of Arminian tails with his little borrowed outline. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

  22. PaulE says:

    Does the author discuss the difference between “true freedom” and being “perfected in true freedom”? Or are there any other writers who wrestle well with Adam’s nature before the fall? I’m pretty certain of two things: 1) that God created Adam, like all of creation, good; and 2) that God’s purpose in creation was Christ and cross.

    Adam cannot have been a slave to sin (because of 1), nor a slave to righteousness (because of 2); nor seemingly could he have had libertarian free will (because of 2). So then, what kind of nature did he have?

  23. Son of Liberty says:

    Thinking out loud…

    How do we come to make our choices? Are they not shaped by our circumstances and experiences which ultimately are from God? Therefore, is God not at the root of our choices?

    Please point out where I have erred.

    1. Arminian says:

      Our choices are shaped, i.e., influenced, by our circumstances and experiences, but not irresistibly determined by them. They play a part in shaping our choices, but not the sole part. There are various factors contributing to our decisions, not the least of which is our own God-given ability to decide which influences to yield to in making choices. Moreover, you seem to beg the question, assuming determinism in saying that our cicrumstances and experiences are from God. I guess it would depend on what you mean by “being from God,” but it appears you mean irresistibly caused. If you mean that, then you are pretty much assuming determinism. Just think of what that would mean. If someone is trying to murder your family, are you saying that that is from God, and therefore, God decided to cause the person to attempt to murder your family in order to get you to choose whatever response you will choose? Our circumstances and experiences are conditioned by countless free human choices. To assume that those are irrersistibly caused by God is to already assume what you are trying to prove (or perhaps in this case what you are suggesting might be the case).

      Now the idea that experiences and circumstances could in some sense be from God does not have to mean that he irresistibly causes them. But if it doesn’t, then your conclusion that God is at the root of our choices would not necessariy mean what the Calvinist/determinist means by that, that he irresitibly causes our choices or that we could not choose to do otherwise than we do, cannot avoid doing what we do. Indeed, if the calvinist view is right, we would have no choices, and so there would be none for God to be at the root of.

  24. Robert says:

    Sorry to enter this discussion so late, a friend told me about it. I have looked over the comments and want to share a few observations.

    Brad wrote:

    “I guess, in the end, I simply treasure God’s sovereignty more than my own freedom. I would rather be His puppet than live in the free bastion of my own making. I am contented and glad that He is pulling all the strings.”

    I am very surprised by this comment and yet appreciate the honesty that Brad manifests here. Consistent exhaustive determinism does entail that this then makes God like a puppet master and we become the puppets. Our every action being controlled and predetermined by the puppet master. This is what consistent calvinism leads to. And non-Calvinists have been pointing this out for a long. But many determinists reject this analogy and want to claim they are persons acting freely while also holding that their every action is predetermined by God. It is refreshing to see that at least Brad is consistent and honest about where his exhaustive determinism leads.

    The other thing that Brad’s puppet comment brings out, is another major problem that non-determinist Christians have with deterministic calvinism. If we are all puppets as Brad correctly admits, then that means everything, both good and evil is directly attributable to God. I work with inmates, why are some of them child molesters and murderers and rapists? Because God pulled their strings to ensure they would be the exactly people that God created them to be (and to do exactly what he preplanned for them to do). It should not be surprising that non-determinist Christians see this thinking at completely contradictory to the character of God and how he deals with people.

    Robert

  25. Robert says:

    Adam wrote:

    “Why is that so crazy? People do it all the time. I have the desire to eat cookies for supper. Instead I eat my green beans. To say that my strongest desire was really to eat green beans is to beg the question and merely state a trivial point: we always act on the motive that we act on!”

    Adam made these comments in the midst of the discussion of the determinist claim that our nature necessitates our desires so we can and always will do what God predetermined that we do. The problem is that if God predetermines everything including our natures, then it is God Himself who plans for and ensures that, people have a sinful nature. This also means that since He predetermines our every desire, the only explanation for why we desire something and act upon that particular desire is that God predetermined for us to have THAT desire. So if anyone sins, they have to do so, it is impossible for them to do otherwise because God predecided they would commit that sin and God ensures that that sin occur. This goes against what the bible says about God being Holy, hating sin, wanting people not to sin, etc.

    And as Adam pointed out repeatedly, it is trivial to claim we act according to our greatest desire (i.e. Jonathan Edwards’ thinking) because if the “greatest desire” is the desire that we in fact act upon, then all it means is that you can call the desire you acted upon the greatest desire. But so what, this does not tell us why you chose to act upon that desire rather than others. And for the determinist since God predetermines our every desire we know why we chose to do something: God predetermined that we would make that choice and He ensures that we make that choice and makes it impossible for us to do anything other than exactly what He wanted us to do and preplanned for us to do. And again this becomes extremely problematic when it comes to evil and sinful choices.

    Robert

    1. Son of Liberty says:

      Throwing this out there…

      It seems that you would also have to answer for what you see is “extremely problematic”. If you put God on the hook for predetermining sin, wouldn’t you also have to put him on the hook for creating beings he knows will be sinful? Either way, we all have to account for this issue.

      Would you attribute any injustice on God’s part for willing about the murder of his own Son to purchase and secure our salvation?

  26. Robert says:

    Scott wrote:

    “In the end, the most compelling desires are what motivates your decisions. I say this is what comports with reality. Libertarianism wants to say that choices are random in the end.”

    Why do determinists keep repeating this misrepresentation of what advocates of libertarian free will believe?

    For determinists such as Scott they keep repeating the same false dilemma fallacy over and over and over again (even though they are corrected over and over again by non-determinists). Their fallacy is this: they claim that any action that we do is either predetermined by God or RANDOM: they act as if there are no other possibilities. But there is another possibility, actually a reality since we all have this experience multiple times daily. We choose to do something for reasons, in light of what is important to us. When we choose to act in this way, our action is neither predetermined by God nor is it random. Many call this “self-determination” because the individual self or person decides what possibility to actualize when a choice is present. When we act in this way, we are acting for REASONS so our action is not random (i.e. something is random when it is unintentional and done without reason or purpose).

    So Scott’s statement that “Libertarianism wants to say that choices are random in the end” is both committing the fallacy of false dilemma and is a false statement.

    Check out Libertarians including Alvin Plantinga, J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, etc. etc. and you will find them talking about people making choices for reasons, so these choices are not random at all.

    Robert

  27. Robert says:

    Arminian brought up an important point when he wrote:

    “What you probably want to say is that our nature determines our will, and therefore our choices (i.e. nature determines will, which in turn determines choice). In that case, we would be pretty close, except that I would point out that our God-given nature includes the capacity for free choice and choosing among various conflicting motives which motive we will follow. But your position does not make sense here, because our fundamental nature does not determine our *specific* actions. Human beings all have the same fundamental human nature. But this does not explain teach person’s specific actions. People act in many different specific ways. While their nature may set some limits for the range of their choices, it is their free will that explains their specific choices from what their nature allows for.”

    Often determinists will suggest that our choices are necessitated by our natures. This viewpoint ASSUMES that we have a nature that necessitates our choices (i.e. it assumes determinism, so it immediately begs the question in favor of determinism). The non-determinist as Arminian points out believes that our human nature sets limits on our choices but does not necessitate particular choices that we make.

    The key point that Arminian brings out here is that “our God-given nature includes the capacity for free choice and choosing among various conflicting motives”. Arminian is correct human nature includes the capacity to have and make our own choices. We see this clearly with Adam in the garden pre-fall when God tells him to name the animals and whatever names He came up with would be their names. Adam could have called the particular animals different names but in each case settled upon the name he chose. Since this occurred pre-fall, this indicates what human nature apart from sin was intended to include (namely the capacity to have and make our own choices, otherwise and commonly referred to as free will). Furthermore, even the fall of Adam and Eve involved this human capacity for free will and having and making a choice. They had two choices, to trust what God has said or to listen to the serpent and not trust in what God has said. The narrative clearly presupposes that they had this choice and they made this choice (wrongly it turns out). But what must be observed is that they had this capacity for free will before the fall. This means that Arminian is correct: human nature as God created it to be, includes having the capacity to have and make our own choices/free will. This is evident in scripture: so determinists who deny the reality of free will are contradicting scripture.

    Robert

    1. Son of Liberty says:

      So was Christ’s death on the cross a sort of “Plan B”? Or did God predestine the cross from the very beginning as the way he would glorify himself?

  28. Robert says:

    Hello “Son of Liberty”,

    You wrote:

    “So was Christ’s death on the cross a sort of “Plan B”? Or did God predestine the cross from the very beginning as the way he would glorify himself?”

    Doesn’t the bible say (and I am confident that know you already know the verses so I will not repeat them here) that the crucifixion was part of God’s plan of salvation and that that plan was formed in eternity (based upon the foreknowledge of God) and carried out in time?

    The passages in Acts clearly say that it was part of God’s predetermined plan of Salvation. We also have an early reference in Genesis about “one being bruised on the heel and another being crushed on the head”, that show that God already knew about the crucifixion of Jesus, already knew that it was going to in fact occur at a later time in history, already hundreds of years before in Genesis. So we have explicit bible statements that it was predetermined (so that negates the “Plan B” theory) as well as an explicit statement in Genesis that God foreknew it was going to happen hundreds of years before it did in fact take place. I don’t’ think you can make a much tighter case that it was both foreknown and predetermined.

    I believe the issue that you are really getting at and asking about is this: does God predetermine some events to occur?

    The answer is Yes, **sometimes** He does so.

    Where the determinist and non-determinist Christians disagree is that the non-determinist says SOME things are predetermined but not ALL. While the determinist says ALL things are predetermined not just some. Only the nonbeliever says that NO events are predetermined by God.

    Robert

    1. Son of Liberty says:

      I appreciate your comments. Your summation has helped make it clear where you’re coming from.

      Why do you think he only predetermines some events? Which events does he predetermine? I think there is a tendency for some to believe that God only acts or predestines the “big things” in our lives and in our world. But for God to act in the big things, doesn’t he also have to preordain the small things?

      Case in point. We would acknowledge that scripture teaches that it is God who sets up the rulers of nations. We could infer then that President Obama is the God appointed leader of our nation, correct? But how did he become president? Was it not through the expressed will of the people in the 2008 election? For God to ordain and place Obama in the Oval Office, did he not work through the will of citizenry?

  29. Robert says:

    Son of Liberty asked:

    “Why do you think he only predetermines some events?”

    Because if he predetermines every event then that means he predetermines for every evil and sinful event to occur. That would contradict His character (He says He his Holy and hates sin) and His Will. Take one example. God says that adultery is wrong, that it is sinful, that He hates it. If God predetermines every act and thought of adultery (including those of Christians), then He contradicts Himself. He says it is wrong, says He hates it, but then He preplans every act and thought of adultery and ensures that it occurs. That is just one example but this could be multiplied with regard to other sinful and evil things as well. Take abortion as another example. He says life is to be preserved and protected, that the innocent are to be protected from evil oppressors, that murder is wrong. But if God predetermines all abortions, then again he brings about and ensures every abortion.

    And think about how this works out for believers. We want to please the Lord and obey His Word and yet if all is predetermined then our actions of sin are also all predetermined and ensured by Him.

    Do you need more examples or do you understand the point?

    Some determinists like John Piper propose that God has two wills, one which is secret and always done(call it the sovereign will if you like), and one which is revealed in the bible which is often disobeyed(call it the revealed will). But the two wills theory does not eliminate the contradiction because then you have God’s “sovereign will” constantly contradicting his “revealed will” as presented in the bible. This contradiction remains in any view where God predetermines all things. So I reject this view and instead posit that God predetermines some events not every event. I also posit that God does not contradict His own revealed will.

    Robert

    1. Son of Liberty says:

      So does God predetermining the events of the cross, which was fraught with sinful actions at every turn (e.g., Pilate, Judas), contradict his character? Absolutely not! Instead, we see the character of God glorified even in the murder of his own Son! At the cross, we see the epitome of every facet of his character glorified – his mercy, his wrath, his love, his holiness, his righteousness, etc.

      I mentioned earlier that if you put God on the hook for predetermining sin, wouldn’t you also have to put him on the hook for creating beings he knows will be sinful? Either way, we all have to account for this issue. How do you account for it? Wouldn’t we both have to say that there is no stain of sin on God for willing about sin as he is not the agent of sin? Does that make sense?

      Let me put it a different way. Isn’t God still “willing” sin by creating you and me knowing full well that our lives will be filled with sin?

      That “Two Wills” sermon by Piper is brilliant. I’ve read it before. There is an example Piper brings up about how we can be unwilling in some sense to go to the dentist, but at the same time we are willing to go. Though these wills may appear to be contradictory, they are both valid expressions of our will. In one sense we do not wish to go to the dentist, but in another sense we do. Why can this not be said of God?

      I say these things with love and respect, Robert. I really do appreciate your responses.

  30. In for an ounce, in for the whole nine yards. God decrees all things. Why should any one have any problem with that. And He decreed the worst of all, the cross, putting at the heart of the worst of evil, the best of his love and mercy and grace. When I lost four people in my family to murder-suicide, I drew comfort from that thought. If God could make the goodness and the greatness of His alvation to come out of the sordid worst of all Hells, the cross, then, He can and must do the same in all else. Eitehr Justic or mercy will be manifested, and He has the right to decide which. As one who suffered great deprivations in childhood, I know that only the Sovereignty of God in absolute goodness can bring order out of such misery…though we see it not now. We shall one day, and I stand on Calvary as the the absolute guarantee of that truth and reality…to the point of believing the goodness is actually begining to occur now. OUR GOD IS SO GREAT THAT HIS GOODNESS CANNOT BE DENIED IN EVEN THE WORST OF CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH HE HAS DECREED AND APPOINTED. EVEN HELL’S HORRORS ARE NOT COMPARABLE TO THE TERRORS OF JESUS ON CALVARY. GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO!

  31. Robert says:

    Hello Son of Liberty,

    “So does God predetermining the events of the cross, which was fraught with sinful actions at every turn (e.g., Pilate, Judas), contradict his character? Absolutely not!”

    Your statements here assume something, which is the very thing we disagree upon (namely that God decrees EVERYTHING). That is what you appear to mean by “which was fraught with sinful actions at every turn”. God does not predetermine and control us so that we have to sin and do sins that he preplanned that we would do. We sin by our own choices. God also has this ability to foreknow a freely chosen action by us. So he knows how we will choose to act in the future.

    He knew that by becoming flesh and dwelling among us and doing and saying the things that he did, exactly what the freely chosen responses of the Jewish leadership, the Romans, etc would be. Since these choices were freely made by the people they are all responsible and accountable for their sinful actions. But God did not predetermine their sinful actions. Knowing the response to the incarnation, he could plan accordingly, knowing what the result of those sinful actions (i.e. Jesus being crucified on the cross) would be. God’s plan of salvation included both the incarnation and the outcome of Jesus being crucified and later being resurrected, though God did not predetermine the sins involved nor control the people in such a way that they had to sin. The passage in Acts explicitly says that the crucifixion involved the predetermined plan of God, foreknowledge of God, and the sinful actions of men. So a non-determinist views the crucifixion as foreknown by God and part of His plan of salvation, while simultaneously affirming the sinful choices were foreknown by God but freely chosen not predetermined. At the same time people are acting freely and their sinful actions are not predetermined and they are fully responsible for their sins.

    There are other cases in the bible where God uses his foreknowledge of men’s freely chosen sinful actions to accomplish a goal/purpose/outcome. Two very good examples of this are Joseph in Genesis where the evil choices of men add up so that the outcome is him being second in command in Egypt and sparing God’s people from a worldwide famine. And the use of the evil Assyrians to discipline God’s people Israel. In each case people are acting freely, God foreknows what they will choose to do as well as the outcome that result: and in each case a good outcome is the result, something that God wants, though evil people were making lots of evil choices and acting freely(their sins were not necessitated by God). As they acted freely they are all responsible for their actions and cannot blame God or dismiss their own responsibility.

    It must be kept in mind that God can foreknow events that He does not intend to occur (like the sinful actions involved in these situations). Contrary to the determinist, the non-determinist believes that not everything God foreknows is something he wants to occur or intends to occur. On the other hand, the determinist who espouses exhaustive determinism, if they are consistent must believe that God intends every single event that occurs (without any exceptions whatsoever). Or as they sometimes put it: He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass. I do not believe that every event that occurs is something which God desires to occur or intends to occur (again the best examples being sinful actions and evil events).

    “Instead, we see the character of God glorified even in the murder of his own Son!”

    God is not glorified in the sinful choices themselves that resulted in the outcome of the cross, but in the love and mercy of God demonstrated by Jesus’ freely dying on the cross (the manifestation of God’s character through the actions of Jesus). God is not glorified by evil actions, such as abortion, adultery, etc. etc. etc. they are in themselves evil and dishonoring to God.

    “I mentioned earlier that if you put God on the hook for predetermining sin, wouldn’t you also have to put him on the hook for creating beings he knows will be sinful?”

    No. It is very different. In determinism God plans every action that we do before we do it, we have no choice but must do what He wants us to do and preplans for us to do. In non-determinism, God creates human beings with a capacity to have and make their own choices. As these actions of self-determination are under our control and done by us, we, not God, are bringing them about.

    In determinism God brings everything about as Brad correctly observed earlier in this thread (when he spoke that he was thankful being a puppet), as though he is the divine puppet master and we are merely puppets who only and always do what He wants us to do by controlling us completely, totally and directly. Contrast the child of a human father, a child who has free will versus a puppet whose every action is determined by the puppet master: the nature of their actions are not the same at all nor is the relationship of the human father to the human child and the relationship of the puppet master and the puppet are not the same. One is a genuine relationship and the other is not. In one two different wills are present, in the other one will alone has choices, the other is merely the pawn of the one. Most of us recognize this difference which is why we have problems with theological determinism and reject it.

    We all know this to be true as a simple illustration conveys. If you and I were at a puppet show (where we knew all of the puppets were directly controlled by a single puppet master) and one of the puppets committed a murder of someone in the crowd. Would we blame the puppet or hold the puppet responsible for the murder? We would say the puppet master committed the murder by controlling the puppet so that the puppet had to commit the murder. If Brad is correct, and he made it plain that he is quite content being God’s puppet, then all of us are no different than that murdering puppet, we only and always do what the puppet master causes us to do.

    “Either way, we all have to account for this issue. How do you account for it?”

    If you mean by “it”, sinful actions by men. We account for it by the fact that God designed human persons with the capacity to have and make their own choices. When they choose sinfully it is not because God pulled their strings so that they would do so. It is because they freely chose to sin.

    “Wouldn’t we both have to say that there is no stain of sin on God for willing about sin as he is not the agent of sin?”

    But that is just the problem, in exhaustive determinism, God like the puppet master with his murdering puppet, **is** the “agent of sin.”

    As others have said about theological determinism in the past it results in God being the author of sin. He planned them all, like an author conceiving their novel, he then ensures they all take place exactly as he planned them, by pulling the strings of the puppets to get the preplanned results.

    “Does that make sense? Let me put it a different way. Isn’t God still “willing” sin by creating you and me knowing full well that our lives will be filled with sin?”

    No, he creates us with the capacity to sin, but He does not will for us to sin. A parent knows that by bringing a child into the world that at some point that child will do some wrong things. Say that child grows up and then commits some horrendous crimes (like some of the inmates that I work with): when that grown up child is arrested for their crimes, can they then cry out with justification: “Don’t arrest me, **arrest my parents** since they brought me into this world. If they hadn’t have brought me into this world, if they had had an abortion instead, then I never would have committed these crimes you are arresting me for!” Most of us would see through this plea and conclude that the grown up child not the parents is responsible for their own freely chosen actions.

    Do you seriously believe that in all instances of crime that we should agree with this criminal’s statement that their parents not them ought to be arrested for the crime?

    If not, then you understand why the non-determinist position does not have the same problem as the determinist position.

    “That “Two Wills” sermon by Piper is brilliant. I’ve read it before.”

    I don’t think it is brilliant at all, unless you believe that God constantly and repeatedly engaging in contradiction is a good thing. God says one thing in the bible but planned for the opposite to occur as real world events.

    “There is an example Piper brings up about how we can be unwilling in some sense to go to the dentist, but at the same time we are willing to go. Though these wills may appear to be contradictory, they are both valid expressions of our will. In one sense we do not wish to go to the dentist, but in another sense we do. Why can this not be said of God?”

    Let’s take your “in one sense we do not wish X and in another sense we do wish X” thinking and apply it to the earlier examples that I gave (adultery and abortion). If Piper is correct then in one sense God wishes and planned for every abortion to occur (the secret will), but then in another sense he believes abortion is sinful and tells us not to do it (the will expressed in the bible)! Or in one sense God wishes and planned for every adulterous action and thought to occur (the secret will), but then in another sense he believes adulterous thoughts and actions are sinful and commands us not to do/have them (the will expressed in the bible)! This is an outright contradiction and so is false, and that is one of the reasons why non-determinists reject the two wills theory.

    Robert

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  33. Matt says:

    Where is the place of mission. When you say ‘People are condemned because God passed over them (reprobation)”. This is the major point on your view of calvinism that I do not get. Please Explain

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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