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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « What is true saving faith? What does it look like? | Main | The Skeleton in the Closet »

    The Need for Grace Does Away with Free Will Altogether

    "The Need for Grace Does Away with Free Will Altogether" is the title of our new eBook. But is the title of the eBook an overstatement? Apparently some brothers seem to think so. After posting the book I received the following comment quoting the WCF:

    Visitor: "God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil." Westminster Confession of Faith, IX:i

    My Response: [yes] for Adam. Yet the fall turned freedom into necessity. In the same chapter of the WSF it also says, III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation:(d) so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good,(e) and dead in sin,(f) is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.(g) So while his will is not forced or coerced, now does evil by necessity, due to his own corruption of nature. peace to you

    Visitor: John Paragraph one of Chapter 9 in the WCF does not apply simply to Adam - it is a confessional statement about the constitution of man as man. The very chapter heading is "Of Free Will." The doctrine of free will has historically been pivo...tal and maintained in Reformed theology. It needs to be defined, of course, but the confession affirms it. I am pushing back on the title above: "The Need for Grace Does Away with Free Will Altogether." Altogether? We overstate the case when we deny 'free will." Man's will is bound to his nature and as you stated, does evil by necessity. Just because we reject "libertarian free will" doesn't mean that we reject the biblical concept of man's natural liberty of will / free agency. Berkhof, Calvin, Hodge, Grudem, etc. are all going to speak in some sense of man's free acts and choices. Man, even fallen man has the ability to act on choice, he is free to choose as he desires - and this is why the confessional language of "neither forced" nor determined by "any necessity of nature" are crucial. Men are free, there could not be human responsibility and accountability if this were not the case. Grudem, "We must insist that we have the power of 'willing' choice; otherwise we will fall into the error of fatalism or determinism and thus conclude that our choices do not matter, or that we cannot really make willing choices." Errors on the opposite extreme may be just as dangerous as those we fear on the other. Man's will is enslaved, yes - bound to his sinful nature - yet free to choose as he wills, with real responsibility for those choices.

    Peace to you as well my brother. I'm sure that our convictions are not far from each other, but I do think we need to be careful about discarding a concept like "free will" just because others misrepresent or misdefine it. Over-correction is an ever present danger; the misuse of something or the abuse of something does not nullify it's proper or legitimate use.

    My Response: I could not disagree more. What you mean to say perhaps is that we have a will, and that is can and does act voluntarily. But it is not free. FAR FROM IT. Freedom from coercion yes, but not freedom from necessity. The kind of "free... will" you are talking about is a philosophical concept, not the Bible. The Bible defines freedom relative to sin. Those who are in a fallen state are in bondage to a corruption of nature and, last time I looked freedom and bondage are contrary concepts.

    This has always been the way it was discussed historically in the church.

    Of course we are responsible to obey the command to repent and believe the gospel. In the Divine economy men are responsible to believe the gospel, but are morally impotent to do so (when drawing from their own native resources). This inability (due to our intimate solidarity with Adam's sin) is something we are culpable for, much like owing a debt we cannot repay. So God has every right to call us all to account to 'repay our debt', so to speak, even though fallen man does not have the resources or will to do so. The Church has a privilege and an obligation to call all men to repent and believe the gospel (an imperative) but, left to themselves, no one believes. But God, in his great mercy, still has mercy on many, opening their hearts to the gospel that that might believe.

    To this sometimes a synergist often quotes "whosoever will may come" to which we reply that this quote does not teach an indicative of what we are able to do, but rather, teaches what we 'ought' to do. As Martin Luther said, "Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove, but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn, telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it..." Luther BW,164

    you see Martin Luther understood the will in the same way I do. And this is the same way Calvin and others also understood. That is why it is important to define UP FRONT by asking "FREE FROM WHAT?"

    Here is a quote from Spurgeon as well which shows how the term has been used in church history. I think the modern use of the term is a confused way of speaking about it.

    "Free will I have often heard of, but I have never seen it. I have ...always met with will, and plenty of it, but it has either been led captive by sin or held in the blessed bonds of grace." - C. H. Spurgeon

    That is why "the need for grace does away with free will altogether" is no overstatement. For apart from grace, and apart from the Holy Spirit, does the natural man have a free will to believe the gospel? No, he is in bondage to sin. That is why Jesus says "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36) -- In other words, apart form the Son setting you free, you are not free but in bondage, a slave to sin.

    Now look back at the part of the confession you quoted. It says, "the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil."

    It was never forced, but now (after the fall) it is evil by necessity of nature. So the quote is specifically speaking of a pre-fall man. Post fall man DOES sin "by any absolute necessity of nature." That is why the next line of the confession (as I have shown) shows the result the fall had on the will.

    Posted by John on February 13, 2011 11:39 AM

    Comments

    ‎Even St Augustine understood the word "necessity" in the same way the WCF meant it.

    "Through freedom man came to be in sin, but the corruption which followed as punishment turned freedom into necessity." - St. Augustine

    John Calvin's take
    We deny that choice is free, because through man's innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. John Calvin from Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pg. 69-70

    Likewise Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "There has been no such thing as freedom since Adam fell. Adam was free. Not a single child of Adam has ever been free... Man's will has been bound ever since the fall of Adam. By nature man is not free to choose God ... Do not talk to me about free will; there is no such thing. There is no such thing as free will in fallen man. The Bible teaches that."

    "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established." WCF 3:1

    It seems that your view is still at odds with the WCF. This passage states that no violence is done to the will and the liberty of our wills (and all secondary causation) is not diminished by God's ordination of the elect or reprobate. In fact, it claims that it establishes liberty of secondary causes (like us).

    The view of "free will" in the Westminster Standards is much more complicated than your portrayal here, and it would behoove reformed thinkers to not stop our study of the philosophical issues involved in this concept issue (note how the WCF uses philosophical terms and concepts that are not expressed in scripture) with way Edwards and others are thought to have addressed the issue (i.e., freedom is to act according to one's strongest desire).

    As I am that "Visitor" here was my response:

    Anthony Hoekema rightly says in the final chapter of his book, "Created in God's Image" the following sentence (The chapter is entitled: "The Question of Freedom"):

    "Sometimes this discussion has generated more heat than light because of the ambiauity of of the various terms used. Words like free, freedom, liberty, volition, and will may sometimes be used with such diverse meanings that those who are discussing human freedom may be talking past each other even while using the same words" (pg. 227)

    You quote and say much about man's sinful bondage that you know I agree with - the bulk of that discussion is not germane to the point I've been making - and it is very simplistic to say things like, " last time I looked freedom and bondage are contrary concepts." Last time I looked "true freedom" was in fact bondage to Christ - apparently these concepts aren't contrary nor mutually exclusive. But these kind of tit-for-tat jousts are not helping us understand one another.

    I would point you to an article on your website by Walter Chantry:
    "Man's Will- Free Yet Bound" That's all I'm trying to say. A couple of quotes from him, just to state that I agree that it is legitimate to speak of a fallen man's will as free in certain senses:

    "Our LORD clearly teaches that man has a power of choice. It is important to begin here to disarm opponents of all the foolish accusations that have been brought against the Biblical doctrine of man's will. Every man has the ability to choose his own words, to decide what his actions will be. We have a faculty of self-determination in the sense that we select our own thoughts, words, and deeds. Man is free to choose what he prefers, what he desires... GOD never forces men to act against their wills. By workings of outward providence or of inward grace, the LORD may change men's minds, but He will not coerce a human being into thoughts, words or actions...The Westminster Confession is very careful to assert the liberty of the human will. When it speaks of GOD's eternal decrees, we are told, 'GOD from all eternity did . . . freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is GOD the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.' When discussing Free Will, the Confession begins, 'GOD hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil.' Neither by creation nor by subsequent acts of GOD are man's decisions made for him; he is free to choose for himself. This sort of freedom of the will is essential to responsibility! Having a will is a necessary ingredient to being morally accountable."

    Though Calvin recommended not using the term "free will" with reference to unregenerate men - he granted others may, so grant me that as well:

    "But how few men there are, I ask, who when they hear free will attributed to man do not immediately conceive him to be master of both his own mind and will, able of his own power to turn toweard either good or evil...if anyone, then, can use this word (referring to "free will") without understanding it in a bad sense, I shall not trouble him on this account...I'd prefer not to use it myself, and I should like others, if they seek my advice, to avoid it." (Quoted in Grudem, pg. 330-331)

    I choose not to avoid it, as Walt Chantry and many others, including the framers of the 16th Century Presbyterian, Congregational and Baptist Confessions did. Men choose freely, according to their nature, in the state of sin, the state of grace and the state of perfection. Are our will's not "free" when necessity of nature in heaven prevents us from sinning?

    @Brother Bob,

    This is a topic is I have discussed online with countless people over the ten years monergism.com has been up and have found it to generate the least heat and persuaded the most people. This is especially true because even most Arminians I ...have had this discussion with, since they believe in Prevenient Grace, also come to recognize that they also believe the natural man has no free will. Discussing it in this way enables us to actually establish common ground with the Arminain seeing we both believe the will is not free at all, apart from grace, but in bondage to a corruption of nature. The need for prevenient grace, by definition, means that left to himself man has no free will, but is in bondage. As a result, the discussion is directed to a fruitful place where we really differ from Arminians, which is over the nature of grace -- effectual or not. We don't differ from Arminians over the will, but over grace. We believe the same thing about the will.

    As for saying man is free and then saying, we we can only make choices according to its nature and that nature is evil, and thus can only make evil choices, that is a hallow freedom indeed. It does not help the discussion..

    Of course we both believe man makes voluntary choices, but I believe it is false and misleading to say that the will is free. By the way free will and free agency are entirely different concepts. you should not use them interchangeably IMHO. Just because it is free from coercion does not mean it is free from necessity of nature. both are a form of real bondage.

    As for Calvin's comments, he gives way to those when he knows what they really mean, but he personally does not use the term in this way. But the vast proportion of his writings, and Luther's writings use the term and phrase in the way I am... using it.

    I understand you Bob and what Walt Chantry and the others you mention, as well, and they may use it that way, but I choose not to, because I do not find it helps the discussion forward, but tends to confuse it ... especially because the Bible does not use the word "freedom" it in this way. It is ALWAYS used in contrast to sin in the Bible. But Does Jesus teach that man has power of choice do choose him or not as you claim? Please show me because I have never seen this. He has the responsibility to choose, absolutely, not the "power" to choose good or evil, as you claim above.

    This responsibility is like a person who borrows a huge sum of money and then squanders it all in wild living. His inability to repay does not alleviate him of the responsibility to do so. So somehow claiming that man must have power and ability to have responsibility is false.

    But to be clear Bob, like you, I too believe is man hasthe ability to make choices but these choices are not free due to our nature. . Anyway, Bob. I know what you mean by your points and understand our positions are ultimately the same. However, you choose to use terminology in a way that opposite the way I use it. ... but no worries, no one who has a discussion with me would ever conclude that I believe man's will is coerced from the outside or that man cannot make voluntary choices.

    This should especially be clear from the quote that started the discussion. "The need for grace does away with free will altogether" - a concept used repeatedly in Luther's Bondage of the Will, which demonstrates that the commands to obey God do not mean man has the ability to do so. That man needs grace to believe the gospel... apart from which he never would. Wouldn't you agree Bob. Apart from grace, apart from the Holy Spirit, no one would ever believe. i.e. the need for grace does away with free will. The fact that we need it means we cannot choose Christ apart from it.

    Bob, one last thing. Those who wrote the WCF did believe that fallen man made choices of necessity now that he was fallen. The opposite of what was said in the first line that you quoted. The text that follows describes that "necessity of nature" in detail.

    Bro. Bob I got better understanding what this waring group's want to say without understanding each other in the spirit of unity is from the book written by Roger E. Olson Arminain Theology: Myths and Realities in a tangible way which cannot be opposed by the opponent's. Let me tell to monergertics and synergetic let us place a book in the hands of free-will adherents why I am not a Arminian and in the hand of anti free-will(ist) the book Why I am not a Calvinist with bible in there hand tell me what will be the response/outcome????? Neither calvinism or arminianism is the gospel. Preach Christ as he is presented in the Bible John 3:36. I want to know more about How the "Will" of the saved person state/nature/works in the kingdom of the Son.

    John, Let me back up a minute to challenge you're major point regarding the Confession of Faith quote I started with. You said that you "could not disagree with me more" and that 9:1 of the Confession is "specifically speaking of pre-fall m...an." You take issue with my point that "Paragraph one of Chapter 9 in the WCF does not apply simply to Adam - it is a confessional statement about the constitution of man as man."

    May I commend to you, if it is Reformed enough for you, A. A. Hodge's Commentary on the WCF.

    Of our current fallen state he says this: "2. As to man's present estate, our Standards teach -- (1.) That man is still a free agent, and able to will as upon the whole he desires to will."

    His outline of Chapter 9's five sections is essentially this
    1. The Fundamental truth of human freedom
    2. Free will in the state of innocency
    3. Free will in the state of sin
    4. Free will in the state of grace
    5. Free will in the state of glory

    Here are the direct quotes:

    "Regarding section 1:
    This section teaches the great fundamental truth of consciousness and. revelation, which renders moral government possible -- that man, in virtue of his creation, is endowed with an inalienable faculty of self-determination, the power of acting or not acting, and of acting in the way which the man himself, upon the whole view of the case, desires at the time.

    "Regarding Sections 2-5
    These sections briefly state and contrast the various conditions which characterize the free agency of man in his four different estates of innocency, hereditary sin, grace, and glory. In all these estates man is unchangeably a free, responsible agent, and in all cases choosing or refusing as, upon the whole, he prefers to do. A man's volition is as his desires are in the given case. His desires in any given case are as they are determined to be by the general or permanent tastes, tendencies, and habitudes of his character. He is responsible for his desires, because they are determined by the nature and permanent characteristics of his own soul…
    When we say that man is a free agent, we mean (1.) That he has the power of originating action; that he is self-moved, and does not only move as he is moved upon from without.(2.) That he always wills that which, upon the whole view of the case presented by his understanding at the time, he desires to will. (3.) That man is furnished with a reason to distinguish between the true and the false, and a conscience to distinguish between the right and the wrong, in order that his desires and consequent volitions may be both rational and righteous; and yet his desires are not necessarily either rational or righteous, but they are formed under the light of reason and conscience, either conformable or contrary to them, according to the permanent habitual disposition or moral character of the soul itself."

    Did you notice: "In all these estates man is unchangeably a free, responsible agent, and in all cases choosing or refusing as, upon the whole, he prefers to do."

    PS - @Philiplazar - I agree that reading Roger Olson is helpful and reminds Calvinists to not misrepresent Arminianism (as the false allegation that they deny "Total Depravity") and I agree, Calvinism or Arminianism is not the Gospel. I'd recommend Iain Murray's "The Cross: The Pulpit of God's Love" as an example of vibrant, passionate evangelical calvinism.

    Now let address a couple of your comments in your lasts posts -

    You say that such "freedom is hallow." It is still freedom John - and that is what this discussion has been about.

    You say that it is false and misleading to say that fallen ma...n has a free will in any sense even though he makes voluntary choices? Has Hodge mislead generations of believers with false teaching?

    And then out of left field you ask (because I don't know where else this could've come from): "But does Jesus teach that man has power of choice to choose Him or not as you claim?" Where in the world did I claim that? Questions like that betray a man not listening to what the other is saying. Fallen men are unable to choose Christ of their own volition, their will's are bound by their sinful nature and they cannot do anything spiritually good. But why would you ask that?

    May I ask you again in light of that - What about in heaven John when our natures are "of necessity" (to use your take of Confessional language) bound to holiness, will we be free? For you state that "fallen man's choices are not free due to our nature." Are glorified man's choices not free due to thier nature? Are we free in any state? For do we not always choose according to our nature?

    Your final question - Of course apart from grace, apart from the effectual work of the Holy Spirit no one could ever believe. But though I like you do not agree with the Arminian concept of Libertarian Free Will - I am unwilling as A.A. Hodge and others to jettison the Confessions use of the term "free will" as applicable to the estates of men.

    My angst here is that we shouldn't proclaim a certain proclivity as the "Reformed position" when many good reformed men differ, nor should we should we over-react to phrases and ideas that aren't our cup of tea. It really is OK if Reformed believers or non-reformed believers talk about men fallen or otherwise as having free-will's in senses defended by confessions and good reason.

    Brother Bob,

    Regarding my take on the Reformed use of the word "free-will": To be as concise as possible:

    Some among us, like yourself, like to describe man's condition as having a free will to do as he likes according to his nature. But his nature is evil so, being led by sin, can only choose evil and is unable to choose good.

    What you choose to call "free-will" the Bible does indeed call bondage to a corruption of nature or slavery to sin. While I fully understand what you are trying to say here, and I do because I used to speak this way myself, I find it to be a strained way of using the word "freedom" - so I don't use it. If you choose to do so fine. I am just trying to show a way, after many years of debate on this issue, that I have found more helpful. that's all.

    While on the surface some others may malign those who say that the natural man has no free will, this can be easily remedied. Here is a conversation that I have had many times with the average evangelical:

    Me: Do you believe man has a free will?

    Friend: Of course.

    Me: If this is so, can a person come to faith in Jesus Christ apart from grace? or any help by the Holy Spirit?

    Friend: No, of course not?

    Me: Then you already believe, like me,that man has no free will. Apart from grace he is led away captive by sin and unable to believe unless God acts. Right?

    Friend: [Light goes on] Hmmm, yeah, ...I never thought of it that way.

    Me: (But if light doesn't go on I then ask), if man's will is free then what is his will free from? Sin, God's decree? if his will is captive to sin and cannot believe apart from grace then his will is not free, but in bondage to a corruption of nature.

    This opens the conversation to grace in ways I could not have done otherwise. This also has profound implications on how we share the gospel.

    You said: "May I ask you again in light of that - What about in heaven John when our natures are "of necessity"

    This question leads me to believe you have not understood my position at all. You are still looking at it from your vantage point. As I said before, the Bible defines freedom, not as free to do otherwise, or free within our natures, but freedom is defined as freedom from sin. God and the saints who cannot sin are therefore the most free in a biblical sense. Being "slaves to God" according to Scripture is our true freedom ... to be "set free from sin". (rom 6:22) "If the Son makes you free you will be free indeed" >> "everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin."

    As for your other question, you quoted Chantry as saying we have the "power of choice" so it was not out of left field. I was merely commenting that we do not have the power to choose good or evil but need the gospel precisely because we do not have that power.

    Lastly Bob, you said, "we shouldn't proclaim a certain proclivity as the "Reformed position" when many good reformed men differ, nor should we should we over-react to phrases and ideas that aren't our cup of tea."

    I am confused. If you remember correctly you were the one who "drew your dagger" first because didn't like the way I was presenting the concept of free will and challenged me. I am merely defending why I do it this way, and explained why I don't find the other way helpful ... but I do understand what they are trying to say. My original post did not, in any way, disparage or put your way in a negative light, it only positively said that "the need for grace does away with free will altogether." So the question is, do you allow me to speak from my perspective? I include all of the articles on monergism.com from both ways of speaking, including "Man's Will - Free Yet Bound" by Walter Chantry because I do understand what he is saying and, as such, the article is otherwise helpful. But you challenged me Bob. Not the other way around. So honestly I think your "angst" should be directed toward yourself here. My two cents. :)

    I love you brother. Don't forget that,

    Solus Christus
    John Hendryx

    Philiplazar

    Actually, While on the surface it may not appear so, Bob and I actually agree 100% on the nature of the will and the condition of man. We are just talking about how to share this biblical data the most effectively.

    We agree with you that we should preach the gospel and preach Christ above all. This is critical and this discussion does not undermine that. But how we present the will and condition of man prior to regeneration (as in bondage to sin) has profound effects on how we share the gospel.

    Secondly, I also read Olson's book and appreciate his points about taking pains not to misrepresent the other. but I have a critique on Olson's position on prevenient grace here because I believe it subtly undermines the gospel, because the grace of Jesus Christ is not merely necessary but sufficient to save us to the uttermost.
    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/prevenient.html

    Bob,

    Bringing your question to me over from the facebook message board.... You asked me, "Do you still think that the WCF 9:1 is speaking only of Adam? Or do you see that the first paragraph is a foundational statement that applies to all the states of man, and that sections 2-5 apply to the successively different states?

    I believe we should take a closer look at what is said here in the WCF Bob. The first statement says,

    I. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil.

    Notice that last part of the sentence says, "nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil."

    The next sentence says

    III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

    This second sentence describing the fall, is the epitome of the definition of what it means to make evil choices by necessity. And I would be willing to guess that the Reformers and the Puritans would all affirm in unison that the fallen man, by necessity, does evil because he is captive to sin. Let me ask you the same question Bob. Does the fallen sinner make evil choices by necessity because of who he is by nature, or not? If he does make evil choices by necessity then the first sentence no can no longer be ascribed to the fallen man. If he doesn't make evil choices by necessity then he isn't fallen. Again if the second sentence does not describe a nature that is of necessity bent to evil, then it does not describe anything. Augustine said Adam's fall turned freedom into necessity, and I am willing to guess all the Reformers did to. There would probably be no framer of the WCF that would deny that the fallen man make evil choices of necessity. The answer to this answers your question.

    Further, I know and understand that many in our ranks have historically used free will the way you are speaking about. I don't need to be convinced of this. This has been something I have studied carefully for many years because it is such an important issue. In fact, I have studied the free will and regeneration issue more than any other, apart from the gospel, in these last ten years. My point is in this discussion, that in the end, I personally find that speaking of the issue biblically (taken captive by sin) rather than extra-biblically has had profound impact on those I have discussed this with. It saves a lot of time to show that synergists are actually compatiblists, without knowing it. This is because synergists also believe in the need for grace prior to faith. This reveals their inconsistency because they say believe in libertarian free will but then acknowledge compatibilsm as soon as they say prior to grace man cannot come to Christ? Why not? If they have libertarian freedom, why can't they come to Christ apart from grace? See here you expose that they really don't believe in libertarian freedom and their view begins to break down. Then they see that the need for grace means man has no free will apart from it, but is in bondage to sin. That man cannot help himself is exactly where people need to truly hear and understand the gospel. Synergists teach that 'salvation depends on human will', but the Bible teaches that 'it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16)

    Next you asked, Hodge: "In all these estates man is unchangeably a free, responsible agent," and regarding fallen, unregenerate man "That man is still a free agent, and able to will as upon the whole he desires to will." Do you agree with this? "

    The doctrine of Free Agency teaches that a man voluntarily acts free from compulsion by some external power in accordance with his own nature and under the influence of his knowledge, desires, feelings, inclinations and character. I have already told you that I wholeheartedly believe that man has a will, is not coerced and makes voluntary choices. But I prefer not to call this "free will" -- because even if the will is free from coercion, it is not free from the bondage of doing evil necessarily. To have a "free will" he would have to be free from both coercion and the necessity to do evil. That is what a Christian is. Someone who has been set free from total depravity and the bondage to sin. We can now, for the first time, see the truth, beauty and excellency of Jesus Christ and desire to trust in Him. Jesus saying 'the Son will set you free' shows that this is the essence of biblical freedom.

    Let me again quote the same Calvin quote if you have not read it because I tend to gravitate to expressing this issue in the way he does here and find it quite effective...

    In his wonderful work, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will, Calvin stated that there are four expressions regarding the will which differ from one another:

    “namely that the will is free, bound, self-determined, or coerced. People generally understand a free will to be one which has in its power to choose good or evil …[But] There can be no such thing as a coerced will, since the two ideas are contradictory. But our responsibility as teachers is to say what it means, so that it may be understood what coercion is. Therefore we describe [as coerced] the will which does not incline this way or that of its own accord or by an internal movement of decision, but is forcibly driven by an external impulse. We say that it is self-determined when of itself it directs itself in the direction in which it is led, when it is not taken by force or dragged unwillingly. A bound will, finally, is one which because of its corruptness is held captive under the authority of its evil desires, so that it can choose nothing but evil, even if it does so of its own accord and gladly, without being driven by any external impulse.

    According to these definitions we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined. (John Calvin, BLW pp 69, 70)


    While I truly love this topic, I see little profit from continuing much further. I am way too busy with work. Hope we can soon bring it to a close. Thanks for understanding.

    Hey John, I'm ready to wrap up as well - we'll likely to have to disagree on a few points. I think you're misunderstanding the flow of the Confession - the "absolute necessity of nature" is not to be equalized with man's fallen nature; paragraph one is a foundational summary and sections 2-5 walk through the four-fold state of man.

    A final quote for my point:

    Zacharias Ursinus's (1534-1583) Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Which he co-authored, later revised by the Synod of Dort)

    Dealing with Question 9 of the Catechism, the chapter title is, "Of Free Will."

    He defines: "Free power of choice is therefore the faculty or power of willing or not willing, of choosing or rejecting an object presented by the understanding, or its own accord, and without any constraint...and it is called free in respect to the will following voluntarily and of its own accord, without any constraint, the judgment of the mind."

    Section III of this Chapter is entitled, "Is There any Freedom of the Human Will?" under which he answers some common objections:

    These objections are very close to yours -

    Objection 1. If man be in the possession of freedom of will, the doctrine of original sin is overthrown; for it is a contradiction to say that man is not able to obey God, and to affirm, at the same time, that he has liberty of will. Answer: There is no real opposition in what is here affirmed, because since the fall man has liberty of will only in part, and not such as he had before the fall, nor to the same degree.

    Objection 2. He who has not a will to choose in like manner the good and the evil, does not possess free will. But man, since the fall, has not a will to choose equally the good and the evil. Therefore he does not possess freedom of will. Answer: We reject the major proposition, because it contains an incorrect definition of liberty; for, according to it, God Himself does not possess any liberty of will.

    Objection 4. That which is enslaved is not free. Our power of choice is enslaved since the fall. Therefore it is not free. Answer: The whole arguement is conceded, if by free we understand that which has the power of choosing that which is good and pleasing to God...But if by free we understand voluntary, or deliberative, then the major proposition is false; for it is not the subjection, but the constraint of the will, that takes away its liberty.

    He goes on to describe the different degrees of free power of choice that belong to man in his various states of innocence, fallen, regenerated and glorified - even as the WCF, Savoy and 2nd London Baptist Confessions do.

    May God bless our study of the word and give us understanding. Thanks for your time.
    Thanks for your time,

    Bob

    Last post. Thanks ... I appreciate you saying that we should let the word gives us understanding. I agree. And as such, I believe I have faithfully used the word "freedom" the way the Bible uses it the entire time of our discussion. These writers you quote are not using biblical language, but philosophical and confessional language. I agree with their intent and meaning, I just don't agree we should invert the way a biblical term is used. The Bible uses the term 'freedom' one way (i.e. freedom from sin) and these writers do another (freedom from coersion within the bounds of our nature). The reason I have gone down this particular path of usage is that I believe it faithfully reflects the term in the way the Bible speaks of it. This is not to say that these writers you quote are wrong in concept, only in usage, IMHO. Both Calvin and Luther went to the source in their way of expression.

    I will end with quotes from Luther's Bondage of the Will.

    "The will of man without the grace of God is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil since it cannot turn itself to good."
    - Martin Luther

    "For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?" Martin Luther BW pg. 149

    "Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove, but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn, telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it..." 164

    Let all the 'free-will' in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength." p. 202

    "I say that man without the grace of God nonetheless remains the general omnipotence of God who effects, and moves and impels all things in a necessary, infallible course; but the effect of man's being carried along is nothing--that is, avails nothing in God's sight, nor is reckoned to be anything but sin. 265

    "All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance are they that do away with "free-will", and these are countless...For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because "free-will" can do nothing." - 270

    "It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13
    Someone, at least, has a different idea than you do.

    @Theodore A. Jones

    Yes read in isolation that text would appear to be teaching that someone could be saved by obeying the law, apart from grace. And indeed we would save ourselves if we never committed sin. But it misses the context of the verse if you conclude we have the moral capacity to obey the law and live. Jesus alone has this honor. Paul is teaching the contrary to fallen humanity.... He (in Rom 2:13) is middle of building his case that Jews and Gentiles alike are both under sin and have thus forfeited their claims to life by means of obeying the law. And he ends the section by saying just this: "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:19, 20). In other words, the purpose of the law is not to show our ability but our inability. And this then shows that Paul means exactly the opposite of what you are trying to make the verse say. That is what happens when you read a text in isolation. Rather v.2:13 in context it becomes clear that Paul is saying IF you obeyed the law you would be declared righteous. But then goes on to prove that you fail the test.

    Here are two articles on the subject of Rom 2 that may help further illumine.

    Romans 2:13 and the Covenant of Works
    http://discoveredeemer.com/?p=223

    Do Believers "Receive Eternal Life According to Their Works"?
    http://www.monergism.com/works02.html

    This discussion includes the usual reformed misdirection that free will is primarily about freedom from sin and free choice (whatever that is – surely if it’s a choice it must be free and if it’s not free It’s not a choice). In summary; are you free not to sin?, and if you are not then freewill does not exist or is not worth talking about!
    But Freewill is an issue of responsibility, sinning or not sinning has nothing to do with it, if you can rightly be held responsible for something then it was your “unencumbered” (or free) will which must have achieved it. That is freewill is a measure of freedom from other wills. Freewill is easy enough to establish between creatures, and although we live in a web of interacting wills in many cases a single will can be identified as primarily responsible. It is rather more difficult to establish between a creature and an overwhelming creator God. In fact if such a creator God wished to establish such, so that his creatures were not just puppets to his creative will, and so they could really love and relate to Himself (love is not love if it must) then he might have to set down some specific designations to establish His creatures responsibilities over and against his own.
    The tree of the knowledge of good and evil (its presence declared good by God, in spite of its risk, because it performed this designation) looks like one. An available doorway out of God’s will, allowing love for him to exist . The tree of Calvary looks like another, a doorway back in. Both work by faith, for any idea that Adam could sue God for his life because He did not eat of the tree is nonsense, for God is God, will you really try to challenge Him with your righteousness like Job did!. Before he fell Adam lived by faith, which is what he was also required to do afterwards and likewise by faith Abel offered the better sacrifice.

    @John Dee

    Ask yourself John Dee. If you borrowed $10 million from a bank and squandered it in Vegas instead, does your inability to repay the debt alleviate you of responsibility? No, likewise as fallen sinners, we are unable to repay our debt to God yet are responsible to do so. Our inability to obey God's 10 commandments and our inability to obey the command to believe the gospel (Apart from grace) does not alleviate us of the responsibility to do so. So you logic is flawed. God does not change his holy standard simply because we have changed. His demands remain the same despite our inability. But thanks be to God, Jesus pays our debts and frees us from the bondage to sin.

    Of course we all affirm that God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. We are responsible to believe. But the question is WILL ANYONE BELIEVE APART FROM GRACE?

    Are you trying to tell me John Dee that you, as a Christian, will affirm right here that a person can freely choose to come to Jesus Christ, apart from grace or apart from any work of the Holy Spirit? That in his natural state he is free to come to Christ?

    John 6:65 denies your claim "no one can come to me unless God grants it"

    You comments show that you missed the point entirely. Choices are indeed voluntary and not coerced from the outside. The issue, which you appear to miss, since you wrongly characterize it is puppets, is that our lack of freedom is not because of coercion but because of necessity of our fallen nature apart from grace.

    But that a choice is voluntary does not make it free. Apart from grace, left to ourselves we will always choose willingly and voluntarily to sin (because that is what we want) John 3:19 says men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light. Rom 8:7 say we are all by nature hostile to God and 2 Cor 2:14 say the natural man cannot understand spiritual truth and thinks it folly. And no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit.

    Unfortunately, inconsistent Christians continue to propagate the false belief that we can attribute our repenting and believing to our own wisdom, humility, prudence and good sense, rather than to Christ alone, who provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. (Ezek 36:26, John 6:63-65)


    @John Dee

    Do you have a free will to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, apart from grace?

    JWH

    John H

    Thanks for the reply.

    You have not engaged properly with the point that freewill is primarily about responsibility; what does the statement “the fact that a choice is voluntary does not make it free” mean? Surely the voluntary aspect makes it free within its context. Is this statement another variation on the tautology of free choice?

    Clearly and in contrast to your assertion choices are potentially coerced from the outside. If I say to you pick a card, your choice is coerced by my presentation of the cards. It is still your freewill responsibility which card you chose but I would be responsible for the set of choices forced upon you. (unless of course you try to be tricksey and go for the joker still in the box i.e. that is my equivalent to the tree).

    A system of original sin clearly means all you can do is sin, so why does God still blame us? But likewise in a system such as the garden of eden (lets consider it without the tree for a moment) all you can do is obey, so why would God imagine that his creatures loved him?

    As I pointed out this is why the tree had to be there in the garden, because it designates both responsibility and freedom to love. But if a designation of freedom in the face of God’s imposed system is required in a system of general obedience to allow love, one must also be required in a system of disobedience to allow responsibility, otherwise indeed God could not still blame us. We can’t be blamed for picking a sinful card if they are all sinful. But of course God can still blame us because neither of these systems are closed, God has provided doorways through both trees, and Romans ch9 v25-27 is an example of the movement which the gospel tree of calvary allows, with calling to be peoples, substituting for systems of sin or obedience.
    “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
    and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
    26 and,
    “In the very place where it was said to them,
    ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”
    27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
    “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
    only the remnant will be saved.
    (i.e on verse 27 some people previously known as my people, will be discovered to be not my people, that is there is more than one type of calling here, its not all gospel nor all the election of Israel; but this is the Jewish misunderstanding which Paul is dealing with, the mistake that the calling is all of one type and which is of course why gospel calling does not undo God’s calling to the nation of Israel)
    You seem to have got uptight on grace and works in the normal reformed manner twitching at the slightest hint of works which is or course a significant part of the misdirection surrounding freewill. But then what do you have to say about Romans Ch2 v 6 & 7 ?

    God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

    Do you immediately deny the works implication here and say its hypothetical (if anybody could) or do you at least admit that you show your faith by your works as James would have it, by asking, seeking and knocking, as Jesus would affirm and which echoes the seeking of this verse. And it is to those who “received” Him who God gives the power to become children of God in John.

    But Jesus tells the cripple to stretch out his arm, he does not do it for him, likewise (and we can agree on this) God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, but he would not command it if he did not also give the grace (power and justification) to do it, and he must do so because elsewhere in Peter it says that he desires that none should perish. So why would he not do all that is necessary so that there is no further impediment to this expressed desire? That is there can be no secret will here. I am not saying here that all are saved, but that God is not being dishonest when he commands all men everywhere to repent, knowing that some can’t because they are not secretly chosen. All men could repent because God makes a free offer to them, and all day long holds his arms out towards them (Romans 10), so its there own silly fault if they do not receive the offer, and likewise again this is why God can still blame men in a system of sin, for there is still the joker left in the box, the doorway out, is there and empowered.

    Yes I believe in grace, but the implication that there is any works in receiving and opening a present is nonsense. Boasting that you opened a Christmas present would just be silly, surely grateful thanks are always in order. Reformed theologians ought not to impute this silliness to others on a blanket basis.

    Reformed doctrine rejects freewill because it feels it is an impediment to grace, but this is a misconstruction and an overreaction, the scripture does not indicate that we are totally passive, we ask and seek and knock and we receive, and this is doing something (works?) even though it is not self saving; there is still nothing to boast about.

    But the idea of freewill is imperative, it ultimately means a designation of freedom from or adherence to God’s will (whether exercised or not) which is a key element which allows love in a system of obedience or allows that we can rightly be blamed in a system of sin. And it is through the two trees of eden and Calvary that it is designated. To deny it just muddies the waters into tautologies of freechoice etc (which don’t mean anything if you look at them closely) but also more significantly messes up the best explanation of the provenance of evil, leaving us with the confusion of an equivocation over God’s responsibility for it.

    My assumption is of course that everything we now do is sin/tainted with sin because since leaving the garden man has been broadly separated from God, although not entirely. That is ultimately sin is counted in separation from God and not in relation to individual acts. Jesus choices were not from alternatives of sin, not because if you were good enough you needn’t sin in a system of sin, but because his life was an invasion on our system of sin. He was bringing a system of obedience into a system of sin, to seek and save the lost. He had to walk out of the garden of eden to come after us, which is a one reason why he was fully forsaken on the cross. But being part of the Godhead He could take up his life again and offer it to share it with us in the place where we had gone.


    The second comment/question illustrates the problem perfectly, you ask;
    Do you have a free will to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, apart from grace?
    The answer to this is clearly no, not because I am now denying freewill but because freewill is not about choice systems, it is about freedom and responsibility to choose between what is available within those systems. Even God does cannot have complete freedom of choice.

    Ultimately the existence of choice systems is at God’s behest or leave. The choice systems which scripture makes us aware of is one in union with his will, marshalled by the tree in the garden; and the other which is outside of God’s will (i.e. sinful) and yet allowed, marshalled by the tree of Calvary.

    I am free to believe the gospel if God so enables it, and He commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel and all day long he holds his hands out towards me. And Adam was free to love God only when He enabled it through the tree’s designation of evil. But without freewill especially in relation to an overpowering creator God we become God’s puppets, for we cannot then be responsible nor can we love.

    John Dee:

    No parent who loves their child understands love in the way you synergists do. If two parents see their children run out into the street. Parent #1 simply stands at the curb and tells the child to use its will to get out of the way of traffic, but does nothing more. But Parent #2 sees his child in danger, and at the risk of his life, runs out into traffic to scoop up the child to make certain he is safe. The first parent's love is conditional. He will only help if the child meets a condition (using his/her will) but the second parent is more concerned about the child's life and knows better than the child what is good for him/her and gets the job done. If this is how we understand unconditional parental love in every day life, how much more with God. No one would see the first parent as acting in love. No one. But that is how you Arminians/Synergists view God's love. It is both unbiblical and does not follow any known understanding of love. You are saying God will only love a person if he is responsible and obeys the command to believe.

    You said, "freewill is primarily about responsibility" So salvation comes because you are more wise and responsible than your neighbor? No, on the contrary, salvation is about a merciful God. The idea that God helps those who help themselves is not scriptural. Rather, He helps those who cannot help themselves.

    You acknowledge that you need grace to believe. Ok then, if two persons receive this grace you speak of, why does one person believe the gospel and not the other? My question is WHY, not what they did. Why is it that there is a difference in the two responses? I am eager to hear your response to this?

    Do you attribute your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, prudence, humility. good sense?


    Re: Adam and Eve
    You appear to be confusing categories. No one here declared that Adam and Eve prior to the fall, were in bondage to sin. Their choice was free from the bondage to sin. As Augustine taught, Prior to the fall, man was able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare) but AFTER THE FALL, he was not able not to sin (non posse non peccare). With all due respect John Dee, the fact that you bring up Adam and Eve reveals that you really do not understand much about the history of this discussion in the church.

    Jesus says, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

    In other words, the Bible is not talking about freedom in relation to which card out of a deck you select but freedom in relation to sin. The Bible fact that man is born as a slave to sin... and last time I looked at a dictionary, a slave is not free. Claiming that fallen man has a free will is as blind (or naive) as saying that the Israelite lived in freedom under Pharaoh in Egypt.

    You say that fallen man has a free will?

    Free from what? Free from sin? Free to believe Jesus is the Christ apart from grace? What is he free from? Certainly no Biblical category.

    The Bible is concerned about bondage to sin and salvation and that is what this discussion of the will and affections is about. We are all responsible to believe the gospel but we will not (John 3:19, 20) unless we are born again. God sees that we are stuck in sin, and that the only way to free us is through Jesus Christ, an act of mercy. As the Scripture declare, "it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (ROm 9:16) and that we are born again, "not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John :1:13)

    You said, "You have not engaged properly with the point that freewill is primarily about responsibility; what does the statement “the fact that a choice is voluntary does not make it free” mean? Surely the voluntary aspect makes it free within its context. Is this statement another variation on the tautology of free choice?"

    Let me make it plain. Just because a choice is voluntary (not coerced) does not make it free (from necessity)

    We affirm that man has choice, so that if he does anything evil, he is responsible for the consequences because it was own voluntary choice. His voluntary choiuce is not due to coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. However we deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness the sinner is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. From this we deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not claim that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity wills in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.

    According to libertarians, free will means the freedom to choose otherwise and the fact that sinners are in bondage to sin means he cannot choose otherwise UNLESS God acts. Jesus says "no one can come to me unless God grants it" In other words no one can believe in Jesus unless God works grace in his heart. So if Jesus thinks of this as a proper category to talk about, so should we. Jesus is talking to unbelieving Jews in this case, who obviously God has NOT granted faith.

    Further, the fact that no man can choose to live a sinless life is proof positive that he has no free will. He is held captive under the yoke of sin and thus he sins willingly and of necessity ... and he cannot do otherwise.


    You said, "yes I believe in grace, but the implication that there is any works in receiving and opening a present is nonsense. Boasting that you opened a Christmas present would just be silly, surely grateful thanks are always in order. Reformed theologians ought not to impute this silliness to others on a blanket basis.

    Do you tell your children they will go to eternal hell if they do not receive the offer of a gift you give them?. That is absurd. The gift of salvation is not merely an offer of a gift, but a command to obey God. (see Acts 17:30, 1 John 3:23) A command to believe the gospel. The fact that those who reject it are punished demonstrate beyond question that it is a moral choice...not a neutral or indifferent choice. John 3:19 says that men LOVE darkness and Hate the light and will not come into the light. People reject Christ for a reason. They hate God and they hate the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a moral decision. Likewise no one would believe the gospel unless they saw the truth, goodness and beauty of Jesus Christ. But the Scripture declares that the unregenerate man cannot understand spiritual truth. But 1 Cor 2:12 declares that "we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God." The Spirit must illumine our minds and change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26) if we are to believe.

    You said, "But without freewill especially in relation to an overpowering creator God we become God’s puppets, for we cannot then be responsible nor can we love."

    This is a false dichotomy. We would only be God's puppets only if our lack of freedom is due God coercing us. But this is not the case, Adam's fall left us not able not to sin. Left to ourselves, even you must admit, man would never come to Christ. This is the condition man finds himself in. We are responsible for it. Being dead in sin, our only hope of salvation is if God intervenes and saves us to the uttermost. Not only justifying us when we come to faith but also raising us from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring us to faith. JESUS provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. God helps those who help themselves is not scriptural. He helps those who cannot help themselves.

    Now as a reminder, the question I would be interested to see you answer is, if two people receive God's grace, and hear the same gospel presentation, why does one person believe and not the other? Was one more wise, prudent, humble, or did he naturally have better sense?

    John

    It would help if you would listen. You state in response to me
    You said, "freewill is primarily about responsibility" So salvation comes because you are more wise and responsible than your neighbour? No, on the contrary, salvation is about a merciful God.
    Yes, but you have changed the subject to salvation and not focused on the point of freewill I am making, because as a good reformed theologian you are totally hung up on the idea that freewill must and can only means works salavation. Freewill is about the ability to love God and God’s ability to rightly and justly hold us responsible. I am not saying God will only love a person if he is responsible and obeys the command to believe, I am saying that “we” can only love God or be held responsible before him if we could have done otherwise and it’s the two trees which enable this – your distinction of God’s coercion makes no difference if your only options are either only to sin or only to obey. And also if God is the ordaining originator, just what and how is God not responsible for everything, without invoking freewill? You are left with equivocations and I am afraid your coercion and necessity is no plainer, although I have an inkling that you might mean the same sort of thing as I was saying about making freewill choices amongst a limited presentation of choices, but you then will not see that the argument leads another way for this which is still freewill. And as I said before even God does not have complete freedom of choice, his choices are within a limited set of choices.
    I have no idea on the detail of libertarians but Freewill is ultimately a matter of being free or potentially free from the creator God’s overwhelming will, i.e so you are not a puppet on His strings. Clearly as a sinner I am broadly free from God’s will spiritually, and I am afraid to say that most of what I do remains broadly against his will i.e. free from it (what a wretched man I am!) and if I die without salvation will then become entirely free physically as well, but still conscious which is hell. Adam was also potentially free from God’s will because God put the tree in the garden. So there you have two opposite biblical categories indicating freewill, which as I said is ultimately a matter of potential freedom from God’s will, which crucially is what enables us to love and be responsible before him.
    Your example of parenting is molly coddling, eventually you have to grow up to have a proper relationship and parents have to let them go their own way. You need a bigger view on God’s purposes, you are also contradicting the scripture where God clearly allowed Adam to fall, a terrible Parent 1 according to your comparison!
    I have no idea what a synergist is and I do not think the view I am proposing is Armenian either. Although if you have the mantra freewill equals works stuck in your head you will hear nothing else than what you want to from me.
    I agree that obedient Adam could also sin in and through the tree, but we can start to not sin in and through believing in the tree of Calvary, or do you deny this? The reason for highlighting Adam was to enable a closer comparison with the tree of Calvary which I think is missed in these type of discussions.
    On your million dollar question I would first raise the issue of determinism. Naturalism (I think that’s the right term) would have us believe that even our discussion here is a result of the big bang if only we had all the knowledge to predict its causation. So what then is the big issue about why someone receive God’s offer or not. If you believe in freewill this is not much of a problem, they are free to decide, we really have been made in God’s image as loci of wilful energy, and there might be any number of reasons why they go either way. My guess is that truth is at the heart of it, some people will not grow up and realise that the world and its truths are not just about them, others know this through the correct appreciation of “the other” often through the hard knocks of life, but also especially the big other of God. The reason why you think this is such a big question is because you have a deterministic mindset focused on the work of causation, so if I say it was through the correct appreciation of “the other”, your mind instantly jumps to causation and therefore works. But I already dealt with this through my Christmas present analogy which you went off in a complete huff about, indignantly thinking the example to low. You did not respond on the similar example of Jesus healing the cripple though, what caused him to stretch out his arm or why did he do it? Was it all done for him or did he also have to respond to make it happen? I think the answer is “he” stretched out his arm, did he then heal himself? No of course not, so it is unfair to apply this same logic to others through pin head discussions awaiting and expecting an admission of causation and therefore salvation through works.

    You said, "Freewill is about the ability to love God and God’s ability to rightly and justly hold us responsible."

    And you know this from what passage of Scripture? Sounds more like your imported philosophy than anything Biblical. You seem to assume this because it fits into your philosophical system. But I have seen you provide zero evidence from Scripture for your presuppositions.

    If you and I can agree that man needs some kind of grace before he will believe the gospel, then we are really talking about the same thing. Man is not "free" to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ unless God does a supernatural work of grace to in his heart. Jesus said "the Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing ... no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me Grants it." (John 6:63, 65) This means people will not believe in Jesus unless God graciously works by the Holy Spirit in his heart. Agreed?

    If you believe some kind of grace is necessary before we believe, then we are actually in agreement that man has no free will. And I think you acknowledged that in one of your posts. He does not come to Christ on his own because his affections are in bondage to sin. We may disagree on terminology but this is actually a point of agreement among all Christians. we have already determined from this definition, then that man has no free will, even though you don't like the terminology. (even though the Bible itself contrasts grace and man's will Rom 9:16 & John 1:13). Where we really differ is not this concept but over something else entirely ... whether God's grace in Jesus Christ effectually redeems those he came to save or not.

    Faith is not a work, we agree, because it looks away from self to Christ for salvation. but even the very humility to come to this conclusion is the result of grace so I believe you turn it into a when you deny thatm even this, is the result of the grace of Jesus CHrist. Grace is not a reward for faith but the cause of it.

    Jesus seems to this this is an important concept when he says the reason you do not believe is that you are not my sheep ... and Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:47) the whole passage speaks of people acting the way they do because it is in their nature to do so and cannot do otherwise because they are not of God. These concepts are all biblical.

    If you wish to continue this conversation I still would like to hear your answer to the question as to why, if you and your neighbor both have grace .. why do you believe and not your neighbor? Why is your response different from his? Was it because you were more wise? More humble? Since the "why" question seems to be important to Jesus as demonstrated in the passages above, I think it is important that you answer it.

    Also answer how your position can be true in light of John 6:63-65 & 37

    John
    You continue not to listen; what do you mean zero evidence from scripture (what an over statement!), my writing is full of biblical concepts and ways of thinking? Maybe you have not noticed because all the quotes have not been explicit.
    The tree in the garden is required to prove our love for God. Likewise in the story of Job when Satan challenges God, that he has Job on his puppet strings of blessing and that his love is not real, God then allows a test removing all possible reason for Job to love God to prove that Jobs response is free from these strings.
    On rightly to blame, I referred to Romans ch 9& 10 – why does God still blame us? Paul’s argument (although in terms of gospel and election) shows why because God has of necessity provided room for movement i.e. from not being a chosen people to being one, and in the case of Israel from being chosen to not chosen. God makes the offer (empowered) and thus we are also free to choose. Romans 10 clearly indicates it is Israel’s own fault for not responding. They did however not “not respond” because God did not secretly call them, they just didn’t see the need.
    I do agree that grace is necessary but the grace that is on offer is one of an outstretched hand of salvation which is not irresistible, otherwise of course Satan’s accusation in Job would stand.
    You continue to mix up the ideas of what choices you are free to make, and the fact that if you are free to make just one choice then you must have freewill over that choice, i.e. you can be responsible for making it. You are making the mistake of conflating two distinct yet related ideas.
    You make the following statement
    If you believe some kind of grace is necessary before we believe, then we are actually in agreement that man has no free will.
    I agree about the grace, but by it I mean an offer of salvation i.e. a free (empowered) choice about it and not an irresistible one subject to Satan’s accusation. Again you have missed the point that if the choice is being presented then we must be free to choose i.e. we do have freewill. The distinction here is whether grace is irresistible or not.
    I did actually answer you Million dollar question, astonishingly we are free to choose the choices which God puts before us, there is no one particular reason why we do or don’t. But to maintain his justice God must put a choice before us which is a way out of only sinning, and to maintain any semblance of Adam’s free love for him (and not be subject to Satan’s accusation) he must put a tree in the garden of eden a way out of only obedience.
    On Romans ch 9 v16 you are making the usual reformed mistake of conflating two different elections, and this is the opposite mistake to the ones the Jews were making and which Paul is arguing about from Romans ch9-11. The distinction is according to the gospel (election) they are enemies, while according to election (i.e of national Israel) they remain loved (see the end of Ch11). Two distinct and separate calling and elections, make sure you do not muddle them up like you have done with freewill and the freedom of choices over which we can exercise our freewill. Yes God is free to ordain what he wants on the national, historical level, He is however not free (in the same way he is not free to sin) to ordain on the eternal destiny sense otherwise he will not achieve his purpose of creatures who are both free and responsible for loving Him and will therefore not fall foul of Satan’s puppet strings accusation. He can only do this by offering his creature choices, which they must by definition, have a freewill to exercise over. If not his justice would become wide open to question, with the clear implication of reprobation with people created for hell with no chance at all.
    Clearly the general call to repentance is the call, but you need to be careful on foreknowledge for God is outside of time. If you are outside of time foreknowledge does not of necessity mean fore ordained. You should think this through and look at precisely what is fore ordained. Is Jesus call always effective, well no, the rich young man resisted Jesus call to follow him. Are you saying that Jesus did not try as hard with him than with Matthew (the rich) tax collector, did he not really wish the rich young man not to perish, or was his call actually non effective at that time?
    I think actually our point of difference is about philosophical systems (as you call it). The truth of such systems is dependant on their core starting points i.e. the fundamental truth which everything else is then lined up against.
    My starting points are
    1. God is creator
    2. The scriptures are a record of his interaction and revelation to man made by faithful and trustworthy witnesses.
    3. God makes man in his image, with freewill in relation to God and thus able to relate and respond to God
    4. God is love
    5. God has to put a tree in the garden of eden (which is why he does) to avoid Satan’s the accusation of puppet strings denigrating his creatue’s love subsequently made in the book of Job, but which becoame something which Satan can damage things around.
    6. God is just
    7. God has to put a tree outside the garden (which is why he does) to counter the question why does God still blame us? And prove his justice, and so the crucifixion is absolutely plan A.
    8. The world is actually made through Christ because the only way it can survive the risk of the fall is to have the incarnate cross at its foundation.
    9. God, has to provide the choice of these two trees, otherwise it makes him a foolish and irresponsible creator providing no true foundation.
    My appreciation of reformed theology/Calvinism is that the logical base lines at least begin as follows
    1. God is sovereign in everything. (explain 9/11 then, explain the fall of Satan apart form that God did it or provoked it).
    2. His purposes are His glory (and even reprobation enhances it)
    3. The scriptures are God breathed, “down to the very words” (and not just the meaning) and must therefore be inerrant otherwise it makes God out a merchant of errors.
    4. Any logical and conceptual contradictions do not sully the above (or even that the interpretation might be wrong) but can be put down to God’s ways are higher than ours – as long as you have enough fraternal or pastoral influence to say so.
    5. TULIP is gospel. (well the rich young man resisted!)
    Everything else follows from there including your assumption that there is no freewill.

    John Dee,

    you said, "we are free to choose the choices which God puts before us, there is no one particular reason why we do or don’t."

    This is perhaps the most evasive answer I have ever heard. Remember I did not ask you what he did (believe: which we have already determined) but WHY he did it. Well can you give me at least ONE of the reasons then? If there are a variety of them, name at least one of them. Or are you saying that there is no reason at all? that some just happen to believe and others do not...That our motive or choice is indifferent? or that our choice to believe is simply by chance?

    "No one can come to be unless God grants it....All that the Father gives me will come to me" John (6:65, 37)

    Please explain this syllogism to me. It has a universal positive "all" and a universal negative "no one" and is spoken in the content of Jesus talking about faith in him.
    Is this grace merely the "offer" of salvation you speak of? How is it then that ALL the people God grants, believe in Jesus? This language of Jesus does not fit in any category that is in the salvation schema you described.

    John

    You of course think my answer evasive because it does not admit your deterministic paradigm. But this I will not do because I disagree with this base paradigm and so instead my answer has assumed my paradigm. As loci of free will we are in God’s image, we might have mercy on whom we have mercy and we might prefer the colour blue, there is not necessarily any deterministic rhyme or reason why, there truly are other people out there who in a sense just are, who just choose, and who just like certain things, because we are in God’s image, who just is.

    This is why the doctrine of hell holds good, God cannot destroy these other wills which he has created, because once created they just are, He can only totally banish them from His life if they choose not to have it “when offered the choice”.

    I had to look up syllogism, its difficult to say, and seems quite technical, but roughly a deductive reasoning from the general to the specific.

    You quote

    "No one can come to me unless God grants it....All that the Father gives me will come to me" John (6:65, 37)

    As if it is a statement which is intended to conform to a particular form of formal logic – which is of course unlikely as the bible is not written that way. So let us not be intimidated by your universal “all” and “no one”. But we could of course add the following;

    2 Peter 9b. “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. Do we have universal “anyone” and “everyone” here as well?, it certainly looks like it superficially.

    You therefore need to explain why not anyone and everyone is saved. If it is because God does not grant and give all (in a deterministic secret choosing will sense) as the force of your approach suggests, then 2 Peter 9b is rubbish and makes God out to be a liar.

    My approach rejects the idea of a secret calling will (and irresistible grace), and so when God commands ALL men everywhere to repent, it is no trick, ALL could if they would this is not a dishonest statement or command. (The power to do so comes with the command)

    All the people who come to Jesus do so because God grants that ALL “could” come – through that command to repent, and because of that honest statement that God wishes none to perish. And salvation only comes because God holds out his saving hands all day long and offers that choice, that is it is God saving granting and giving. Therefore those that do come, all that are actually saved, are a subset of all that God intended or hoped to save. This is softer on the scripture as a whole than just rejecting 2 Peter 9b to junk status.

    But let me be clear grace is not just a choice offered by God which we can exercise our freewill responsibility over, it is an empowered choice. As we respond deciding to stretch out our withered hand, God heals it to make it possible – and there really is nothing to boast about here it is God who makes the offer, saves and heals and so makes it possible; unless of course you wish to engage in pin head type arguments similar to some Jewish ones. One rather amusing Jewish one goes something like this, its not ok to carry a stone on the Sabbath (that’s work), but its ok to carry your son, because that love; but is it ok to carry your son, who is carrying a stone and to whom the law does not yet apply because he is too young? Just how did the Jews get there?, they have just got completely the wrong end of the stick. But trying to argue that opening the present or laying hold of “God’s outstretched saving arms” by faith is something to boast about, and therefore a kind of work as reformed theology has tended to do is to just take a similar wrong turning. Of course this idea might originate as a bad argument which formed part of the original reformation salvation by faith debates and which has since unfortunately and unhelpfully become entrenched.

    If grace is irresistible, why does God not motivate himself to get on with granting and giving all, in the light of his expressed desire of not wanting “anyone” to perish, and wanting “everyone” to come to repentance?

    I guess we are coming to an end. I can’t say I’ve learned anything new about reformed theology, its I am afraid, same old same old and the equivocations are as good as old Wayne Grudem’s. You have however been an excellent sounding board, for which I thank you for your time and interaction over and in fact I am grateful that you have responded at all, its more usual just to be sent to Coventry which is sad because we are all part of the same church.

    Come let us reason together says the Lord in Isaiah and each one should be convinced in his own mind, because everything which does not come from faith is sin, says Paul in Romans. I hope nothing I have said has destroyed or weakened the work of Christ in you, but you seemed up for it and robust enough to be told that all food is good to eat and all days are alike but or course you in turn must not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil, and you have spoken up.
    The place of unity is to recognise that we have the same Lord, but as it stands seem to be working in very different departments. But by recognising these different rooms or paradigms we can start to understand each other better. With a deterministic, God sovereign in everything approach, there can be no freewill, as you argue for. But the facts of life and many bible passages speak out against both of these assumptions. To consider alternative construction you have to loose the determinism first, if just for a while, while you test an alternative, to see if it answers more questions and makes more sense. If you don’t then you will see nothing making sense with determinism which of course it won’t because a non deterministic construction cannot be based on it.

    Best wishes at this lent time for you and your family, and I hope that what I have written during this interchange can be a source of further reflection for you.

    John Dee

    John Dee

    you quoted, "2 Peter 9b. “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. Do we have universal “anyone” and “everyone” here as well?

    I wholeheartedly agree with you and the Scripture that God does not want anyone to perish ( I don't see how this contradicts my view) ...He wants all to come to repentance for the same reason He does not want anyone to disobey the commandments. When God gives a command, such as, "All men are commanded everywhere to repent and believe the gospel," He is saying it is his revealed will, his preceptive will for us. He wants us to obey His command. Think about it. When God gave the 10 commandments to the Israelites and the command to love God and neighbor, was His desire that they keep the commandments?, or was his desire that the disobey the commands?. Of course obey. But that does not means they will because the commandments have no power to help you obey it, only grace does. In other words, I believe you are confusing indicatives (mood of certainty, actuality) with imperatives (God's commands) God desires we obey His commands, but this does not mean we will because it a precept, not a decree.

    So 2 Pet 2 makes perfect sense to me in light of my view. I don't have to ignore it or do a dance like you did when you said that the Bible does not use logic. Without logic no sentence would make sense. A syllogism example: All humans are sinners. Greeks are human. therefore all Greeks are sinners. In John 6. No one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it (Jn. 6:65) All that the Father grants Jesus will believe (John 6:37) Therefore grace is effectual to all whom God grants.


    Even though you claim you did not learn anything new about Calvinism I see that you continue to mix up the concepts of meticulous providence and salvation by Christ alone. While meticulous providence is an interesting topic, it is not the heart of Calvinism. The heart of Calvinism is salvation by Christ alone. He is not only necessary but sufficient to save to the uttermost. Man is responsible to obey because God does not change his standard simply because we fell. In other words he still requires holiness of us. He still desires that all men repent and believe the gospel. But none do if left to themselves. Our condition is too hopeless. Yet He pities sinners still has mercy on many. But he is not obligated to cancel everyone's debts. If ten people owe you $100 and you cancel the debt of two of them, is it unjust for the others to demand their theirs to be cancelled as well? This seems to be your demand of God. Jesus is central -- It is his Person and word alone that save us .. not only justifying us when we come to faith but raising up the dead in sin by his quickening Spirit in order to bring us to faith. We do exercise our own faith but it springs from the new heart God grants us.

    you said, >>>You of course think my answer evasive because it does not admit your deterministic paradigm. But this I will not do because I disagree with this base paradigm and so instead my answer has assumed my paradigm.

    Not quite. I was asking you to clarify what you meant. Did you mean by your answer that there may be MANY reasons people believe or or that there are no reasons at all that people believe? That they just happen to believe, as if by chance. If many reasons, what are some? This is a simple reasonable and legitimate question, and fits into all paradigms.

    Solus Christus
    John

    John
    Your response regarding 2 Peter 9b is an evasion. If the bible says God does not want any to perish then to be true to that desire he must give grace to all to be true to that. Your comparison with the Jewish law is irrelevant as it was not a matter of perishing, for they already were before the law was given.

    He provides the option of grace for all via the general call, although empowered, this is resistible.

    I did not say that the bible does not use logic, I said it was not written in a formal logical style, presumably to make it accessible to the man in the street who knows how to breath logic, but can’t explain it formally. If you wish to be a teacher you need to reduce your jargon levels, what is meticulous providence? Erudition and big words is no way of convincing people you know what you are talking about. It is distilling truth for the everyday conversation and level which is useful.

    Your debt comparison is not a good enough example and does not reflect reality. If I create Adam, do not intervene and stop him falling (like your horrible parent 2) into a system of bondage to sin, on what basis of justice can I possibly punish Adam’s children in eternity who had no choice about being born into this system of sin for sinning. This reflects reality, this is what has happened. It’s like punishing the children in a car because their parent crashed it, because they were also part of the momentum which caused the damage elsewhere.

    This is what is frustrating about talking to reformed theologians is they cannot see this clear logical corollary of the system of interpretation they have developed which turns God into an unjust monster, and which is why they continue with equivocation, asserting incompatible truths and the same time not allowing others to make a better fist at a reconciliation. In fact I am surprised at you speaking of syllogism at the same time as denigrating what you call my philosophizing, for to admit logic you must admit this corollary. Of course the alleged way out of this is first and second cause, but this breaks down completely when considering the fall of Satan.

    To be just God must offer a way out, to be true to his purpose in creation God must also offer a way out, but what he does in fact owe us coincides with what He also owes himself. The stupid phrase God needn’t have saved any ignores these points.

    On your million dollar question, there are potentially many different reasons some of which would indicate causation, but what I am keen to affirm is your phrase
    That they just happen to believe, as if by chance
    Yes this would also be true, but the significance of being in God’s image as a loci of will is that ideas decision and preferences can be uncaused, but as if by chance is a pejorative.

    This is like the argument, if God made the universe what caused or made God. This can be shown to be a non question because God is outside of space and time, i.e. the meaning of caused or made no longer has the meaning we might think it does because before no longer means anything. God’s moral or spiritual agency just is, if we are made in God’s image then I am suggesting yes, that we just might happen to because we have decided to.

    John Dee:

    Please let me say it again, I affirm that Adam was free before the fall. I never said otherwise. He was not in bondage to the yoke of sin -- and so, he freely chose to rebel against God. I discussed this in detail earlier. God did not force him to do anything, anymore than God forced the Romans that he ordained to nail Jesus to the cross.(see Acts 2:23; 4:27 28). These Romans are responsible for their sin, even though these passages plainly state God ordained the crucifixion.

    So my debt analogy stands. You have not overthrown it. Adam squandered his blessing and we are in Adam owing the same debt we cannot repay. If you want to continue along this line of argument you must overthrow the concept found all over the Bible in Acts 2 & 4. God can ordain something that we choose of our own will. We are not kicking a screaming against the choice. But make the choice ourselves, willingly. We are responsible for it. All Classic Calvinists believe this, including Mr. Calvin himself, I came to these conclusions from exegesis well before reading any Reformers.

    Further, The arguments you just made can be used against yourself. If God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all that will take place (as you also yourself believe if you are a Christian), then he knows what will happen to every individual before he creates them with certainty and the future choices cannot be otherwise. If God knows who will be saved and knows who will not, before he creates them, then it is already fixed in eternity and God would be wasting his time to try to save those he knew would never come. If it is a problem for Calvinism it is no less a problem for Arminianism except the Arminian must ascribe our choice to something more powerful than God like fate, since the future choice is certain and God did not ordain it. In the Arminian scheme God could likewise have easily stooped that which he knew with certainty was going to happen. So I would encourage you to stop relying on this bogus, hollow argument about God's sovereignty. it can be applied to your view just as any other, unless you believe God is ignorant of the future, which is another question entirely.

    The real question that you and I differ on is whether Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone. In your view He is necessary but not sufficient. God loves us only if we meet his condition: faith. But we believe that God loves his own so much that Jesus met all the conditions for us, and so granted us a new heart that we may believe. In our helplessness He came to save us. Not only if we meet His conditions. He loved us even when we did not and made certain we were saved.

    You said: Your response regarding 2 Peter 9b is an evasion. If the bible says God does not want any to perish then to be true to that desire he must give grace to all to be true to that.

    This is a leap of human logic which you fill in with your from your own external system. You say if God does not want any to perish "THEN HE MUST" do this. This appears to be how you interpret all Scripture. You fill in what you think to be blank with your "THEN HE MUST" . Find in Scripture what God MUST DO before you tell him what he must do. Given your logic then, the Jews could obey the 10 commandments since God gave it to them so THEY MUST have been able to perfectly obey it. Where does it declare this in the Scripture? You are making it up.

    You said "Your comparison with the Jewish law is irrelevant as it was not a matter of perishing, for they already were before the law was given."

    I am not talking merely about Jewish law but all commands in Scripture which are given so that we would lose all hope in ourselves and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. The commands are given not so we would know our ability but our inability Through the law comes knowledge of sin. But the humility required to come for a person to come to this conclusion is well beyond the capacity of man. Even the very humility to believe is a gift of grace.

    You said, "To be just God must offer a way out, to be true to his purpose in creation God must also offer a way out."

    If you really believe this John then I must painfully conclude you are not a Christian. Unless you believe that you justly deserve the wrath of God and that He would be just if he saved no one, then you simply do not understand the gospel.

    You declared, "This is like the argument, if God made the universe what caused or made God."

    That's odd because Jesus himself spoke about why people believed many times. (Ex. John 6:63 John 8:47, John 10:26). If Jesus declared it then is not not a non-question but part of revelation. So your argument does not stand.

    The real question is, if I am wrong about John 6:63, 65 & 37 what do they actually mean? How do you determine the meaning of this text? And how did you arrive at that meaning?

    It seems to me real reason for your response is that the implications of Jesus words are so hard to accept that John Dee is throwing up a road block. I am open if you can prove me wrong. If the text in John 6 means something else than how I interpreted it, I am all ears. I sit is eager expectation of hearing why I am wrong. Listen, if I am wrong about this verse I want to know it.

    "No one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it (Jn. 6:65) All that the Father grants Jesus will believe (John 6:37) Therefore grace is effectual to all whom God grants.

    Am I wrong about this conclusion? If so what in the text am I not seeing? This is not about defending a system but plain truth spoken in the Bible. I came to these conclusions exegetically (from the Bible) WAY before I ever knew what a Calvinist was.

    John
    Ouch, not a Christian – that hurts a lot! But I will try to wear the scar with pride – I’ve had the exact same from your type before, when questions surrounding those who have not heard including around the troubled birth of my first born could not be answered, they just end up saying you can’t be a Christian then. It was this episode allied to the extensive reading of Wayne Grudemn’s systematic theology and elsewhere which clarified to me that the reformed theology of the church I belonged to could not stand hard questioning. Their answers remained equivocal and in the end they would just do the God ways are higher than yours, actually meaning I know better than you, even though I can’t explain things any better, and so maybe your not a Christian then.

    Also I forgive you, but I will not be coming back for more.

    Some last observations then.

    You have still not answered the question of justice, what about the children in the car crash. Yes Adam had freewill before God (but only because the tree was there) but his children never did, so why does God blame them, if they never had a chance otherwise? You take the car crash idea to any court or any person in the street and I bet they say the children are not to blame and do not deserve punishment even though their momentum in the crash added to the damage. Our debt is clearly caused by Adam’s. What legal construct do you mean when you say we are in Adam when clearly you say we are not the same, he had freewill and so can fairly be blamed for falling, but you say we don’t have freewill so on what basis of justice can we be blamed if we have no choice but to sin and are unable to choose otherwise? You know that no law was given to afford salvation.

    You have no answer to this other than to assert that God is just, in the face of a clearly unjust situation, an equivocation. My answer is that God is just because he has also provided a choice out through the tree of Calvary on which we can exercise our freewill, and through it we also have in particular freewill before God, and so can then rightly be described as being In adam.
    And no, your debt comparison does not stand on another basis as well, for you need to explain how Adam’s debt is passed onto his children (and note this is before any other law is given). American law is clear that it doesn’t, and it is clearly right and just that it does not. So why would an unjust passing on of debts/inability to pay be implicated in God’s economy?

    On God ordaining things you need to distinguish what is ordained, is it election to salvation through the offer of the gospel or is it election where the person will have no choice in the matter i.e. Judas to betray, Peter to deny, Romans to crucify, Israel to be the people of God, Christians to become like Christ etc. To manipulate historical events to achieve his purpose, does not subject people to eternal condemnation, so in that sense God uses us as clay and can do so without betraying his eternal justice, but where eternal destination is concerned he provides gospel choice and room for movement. Go on re-read Romans 9-11 with these thoughts in mind.

    As I said in my last entry the first and second cause idea may work in the; “what they meant for evil God meant for my good” context, but it breaks down completely when considering the fall of Satan. If everything was perfect how is it possible for Satan to fall in the context of first and second cause, there is absolutely nothing to tempt him, and so with first and second cause God as first cause is just as responsible for this fall. Unless of course Satan has freewill which is not necessarily subject to cause, it just is. Because it breaks down here it maybe one should adjust the idea!

    I already dealt with the issue of God’s foreknowledge briefly, so I am surprised you have jumped in feet first, with no reference or query about what I said at all, but there you go you haven’t been listening but have been trampling over everything.

    Reformed theologians generally believe that God as creator, creator of space and time is outside of time, read Wayne. Unfortunately they then do not go on to make any connection with this conclusion and to anything else i.e. in denial of one scripture (scriptural idea) interpreting another, and continuing the habit of trying to hold incompatible truth statements together. If God is outside of time it makes a significant difference to any appreciation of his foreknowledge of the future, and this is why I said my view is not Armenian either because they make a worse mistake here than you lot.

    The fact that God is outside of time breaks the in time logical link between foreknowledge of events and those events being fixed in eternity. You are therefore required to reassess exactly what is declared as being fore ordained and so fixed and what there seems to be freedom over. An illustrative example would be to imagine the author of a book, who allows the characters in his book to be co-authors (and in fact write quite a bit of everything) and this seem to describe his-story. Now you can imagine that the author outside of the book can flick through the pages and speed read more or less knowing past present and future all at one moment, and yet although he knows what will happen the actual contributions of his character co authors are not fixed into this story until they make them on any particular page. On this basis you can imagine how our freewill before God can be compatible with his foreknowledge. God already knows what you will decide, but it is not fixed into eternity until you make that decision and write it on the page in time. If you do not make any adjustment to your understanding in this way then you in fact deny through equivocation that God is outside of time and that God therefore did not create it; and reformed theology seems to do this as you have done based on your comments.

    I see that you are still insistent that by implication I am boasting about that I responded to God’s offer of eternal salvation, when I see no reason to, even though I think it was me who responded, and in fact that you have moved on to become judgemental about it, how sad.

    On what God must do, why are you suggesting that what scripture shows him as doing that he needn’t have. Who are you to say any such thing! Surely the fact of Calvary is testimony that the offer of the gospel was imperative, as the testimony of the tree in the garden means that this choice was also imperative, did God just put it there on a whim! If God saved none, Satan would have won and indeed God would be a foolish builder. One of the most shocking bits in the bible is God’s comment of regret before the flood, almost making him out to be weak and stupid, why would he change his mind about making man – but of course he doesn’t. phew!

    Your final section is a general invocation of reprobation, leading us back to the top which you still need to answer, on what basis of justice can God condemn Adam’s children who never had a choice about sinning after Adam bound them into bondage to it (i.e. incapable of any choice but to sin even though they still obviously have freewill responsibility to exercise amongst those different sins they choose to commit)

    Your approach to John 6 65 invokes reprobation in your sovereign, deterministic, in time system. I already answered your question over an alternative approach to this when I was referring to 2 peter 9b i.e. these scriptures are made sense of by seeing them as a subset of the general call, and therefore God’s offer, initiation, particular knowing, giving and saving as implied by these scriptures are retained. The basis of my interpretation was having concern for one scripture (scriptural idea) interpreting another. The conclusion of reprobation flies in the face of God’s justice which I consider to be one of the paramount truths which I already mentioned, it is no road block, and I cannot understand why reformed theologians aren’t at least bothered by this hole in their road to actively and sympathetically consider other systems. In the end they just say you can’t be a Christian then, which is very poor indeed.

    You have boasted at your exegesis as if a pure interpretation is possible and made no acknowledgement of the fact that we do in fact inevitably bring our baggage to scripture. It is an iterative process coming to an interpretation which answers most and contradicts least. It must also be a reasonable process, allowing logical corollary etc (which all look like philosophical systems) because to even deny this you must use reason and so would self contradict if you tried it (although this does not stop reformed theologians from trying it when their system no longer answers as I have experienced).

    All reasoning has logical starting points even if you do not actually start with them or indeed have worked them out yet, and these start points are the biggest assumptions and truths which we are then interpreting everything else by.

    Let me give an example;
    The so called literal approach to the days of creation is to assume six 24 hour days, if it says a day it means a day, for this is God breathed down to the very words and not just meaning (which might be metaphorical or allegorical etc). We of course immediately get the problem that the Sun is not there to provide daylight until the fourth day. The explanation is that the first three days are “literally” the same period of time as an earth day would have been if the sun was there. Although a bit dubious this maintains the literal approach intact. However there is also another problem namely “and there was evening and there was morning, the first day”. What is a morning other than literally the sun coming up, but there is no literal sun to come up! In spite of this literal approach falling apart here, it still continues. This is because people approach the scripture with a literal bias and don’t notice that they are in fact being selective because no one normally mentions the morning and the evening bit. The literalists are selectively literal but continue with their literal approach because it is one of their main assumptions, everything else becomes coloured by it.

    Reformed theology/Calvinism ought to reflect on what its main assumptions are and make sure they hold good. You previously said that the main thing about Calvinism is “only Christ”. But this is neither its distinctive, because other systems would admit that it is only through Christ that we are saved and that he does all the saving (i.e. including mine – which really is another reason why you should not have made that comment), nor its logical start point.

    Its distinctive is a particular approach to “only Christ”, which by implication would give someone legitimacy to boast that they had the wit to receive and open a Christmas present (surely they would be stupid not to, so its nothing to boast about). But this particular approach in the face of a sovereign God, with a questionable in time approach to his foreknowledge, inevitably implies reprobation, which clearly begs his justice which ought to be considered as one of God’s most important attributes. The approach to this problem is to dismiss it, and so the reformed/calvinist approach to God’s justice is selective like the literalist above.

    That is the whole Calvinist interpretive system is coloured by the approach to God’s sovereignty which can be shown to be questionable through their equivocation over whether God is in time or not. On the one had they say yes and yet on the other they do not allow this to affect the way they understand his interventions and foreknowledge. Calvinists prefer sovereignty over justice, when it is well known that justice must come first; for no sovereign state lasts long without justice. And likewise because you have in fact be rather unfair in your comments to me and lack of trying to appreciate what I have been saying, I continue to retain little respect for the theology you represent, even though I also acknowledge your own profession of Christ, and that people start where they are. Each person must be convinced in his own mind. But part of the point of theology is to help. In the end it must be about the best answers and the least contradictions, but these answers must ultimately be of practical use in strengthening perpendicular living toward God In Christ, and there are no doubt different levels and stages of these. I would suggest we are at different levels or stages.

    No more pearls – Goodbye!

    John Dee,

    You asked me an important question, saying "Our debt is clearly caused by Adam’s. What legal construct do you mean when you say we are in Adam when clearly you say we are not the same, he had freewill and so can fairly be blamed for falling, but you say we don’t have freewill so on what basis of justice can we be blamed if we have no choice but to sin and are unable to choose otherwise? You know that no law was given to afford salvation."

    John Dee.Here is your answer Given your same logic if Adam cannot represent us, neither can Jesus. In this case, the righteousness of Jesus Christ could not be ours either. The righteousness he imputes to us by living a perfect life and dying the death we deserve is given to us federally. He is our federal representative. The fact that you do not know this most basic fact about Christianity further leads me to believe that you have little knowledge of true biblical Christianity. Furthermore, this kind of federal representation (which you say has no basis) happens every day in our world as well. Some people are born in the United States in a rich family with plenty of food and some in third world countries in poor families. The children are not at fault but they share their parents lot. This is the reality of our world and you pretend there is nothing like this? DO you think God has no part in where children a born? After the fall there is great inequality to babies in our world. They were not at fault. but they were born into it. Again if Adam cannot represent us in our sin, then neither can Jesus in his righteousness. In other words, your entire system and argument just came crashing down.

    Grace is not a reward for faith but the cause of it. Our condition is worse that you make it. We are so far gone that our salvation cannot be based on our faith but is based solely God's grace, who grants us the faith we could never supply ourselves from our own native resources. To be dead in sin means that as fallen creatures we do not naturally the Holy Spirit. Paul said, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit." God must open our blind eyes, unstop our deaf ears and turn our heart of stone to a heart of flesh or we would never believe.

    Next regarding questioning your personal salvation, I said IF YOU BELIEVE basic scriptural teaching that ALL Christians believe, Arminians and Calvinists alike, that you yourself do not justly deserve the wrath of God and that God would be just if he did not save you or anyone (since none of us deserve salvation), then you are not a Christian. The gospel demands that we understand our selves to be ill-deserving sinners. You make it sound like God is obligated and we are deserving. This is is the most basic believe among both Calvinists and Arminians. It weighs heavy on my heart that you have been so deceived by non-Christian philosophies that believe God's justice demands that he give all an equal chance. On the contrary God's justice demands our death. It is his mercy which you need, not justice. People either get justice or mercy. I pray God grant you mercy not justice. Justice is the last thing you want.

    So I plead with you to hear God's call to repent and believe the gospel. Do you believe you justly deserve God wrath? If so he offers pardon in advance to those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy recognize their is no hope in themselves and believe in Jesus Christ (his life death and resurrection) alone for salvation. If you do so you will find forgiveness of sin and eternal life. May God grant you the grace to believe.

    Solus Christus

    I just have one comment. I thought everyone knew that there is one way, and one way only to fall from Grace. You have to be married to her, roll out of bed and hit the floor, then you can truly say you fell from Grace. Christ died for all our sins not just some of them.

    "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." ROM. 2:13
    There are no exceptions.

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