Logical Implications of the Synergistic View of God’s Knowledge Part III

By Pastor Dustin S. Segers

It has been over a month since I posted Part II of this series. This is because I am a very busy man. I think you’ll understand when I explain the following: I work 40+ hours/week at a secular job, I am one of the elders of a Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, I am working on a second seminary degree in Biblical Languages, and I have a family to provide for and spend time with. Therefore, the frequency of my posts will be much lower than the average blogger.

Nevertheless, Part III of this series will present an overview of open theism’s suggested answers to the perceived problems of the classical Arminian view of God so as to demonstrate that the Arminian must either reject their traditional simple passive view of God’s foreknowledge only to adopt the Calvinistic view of God’s preordination of whatever comes to pass or they must logically opt for the heresy of open theism so as to remain internally consistent with their own theology. (Here you can find Part 1 and Part 2 of this series).

Open Theism’s Suggested Answers to the Perceived Problems of the Classical Arminian View of God

The God of Open Theism Seeks Real Relationships by Limiting His Sovereignty

Classical theism, including classical Arminianism, has historically taught that God is passionate for His glory. In the classical theist’s view, all that occurs in the world is ultimately for the sole purpose of bringing glory to God (Eph. 1:4-6, 11-12, 13-14). Over and against this, open theists emphasize their view that God’s greatest quality is love. Thus, the open theist will be very concerned to preserve God’s desire to develop a deep, loving relationship with man by proposing that God has chosen to allow man to use his free will to help God create and develop His plan for the unfixed history and future. [1]

Next, the open theist sees God as limiting Himself in the universe so that He can persuade man to help Him with his creation, thus entering into a greater and more meaningful relationship with man. Thus, the open theist abhors classical theism so intently because they deny that this type of deep and loving relationship can occur in the classical view, mainly due to a fixed eternal decree. [2] According to open theists, if history is fixed by an eternal decree, obviously it cannot be changed, thus the God of classical theism takes no “risks” by setting up an eternal decree, and thus eliminating the possibility of anything else to occur due to random chance, or by way of the supposed libertarian free will of the creatures. Pinnock gives the reason why he believes that God allows some things to happen for no reason or purpose at all, “because God goes in for real relationships and real partnerships.” [3] Thus, the open theist feels that the classical theism view depicts a God that is callous, fatalistically determinative, and not interested in developing meaningful relationships with mankind.

The Risk-Taking God of Open Theism

In the open theistic “risk model” of God, the future is unknown to God because it does not yet exist. [4] This then makes God more vulnerable because He has to depend more on His creatures to help Him develop His “divine project” for history.[5] This is clearly set over and against classical theism’s idea of a fixed eternal decree whereby God freely decrees whatever comes to pass. Again, the Open Theist will argue that this view enables God to develop a more intimate relationship with His creatures, by allowing them to help God develop the future. Since God does not know the future, the open theist says that He cannot know how we are going to use our free will. As was quoted earlier, “But no being, not even God, can know in advance precisely what free agents will do, . . .” [6] Thus, God must learn, grow, and develop, much in the same way, that man does. Again, according to the open theist, this helps God relate better to mankind.

The God of Open Theism and the Fulfillment of His Divine Purpose for History

Next, according to the open theist, God cannot control man’s will, but must coax us into helping Him carry out His general plan for history. This is verified by Pinnock when he states, “The world is dependent on God but God has also, voluntarily, made himself dependent on it . . . . God is also affected by the world.” [7] Thus, history and the future is the combined result of what the dependent God and His creatures will decide to do working in conjunction one with another. The open theist sees this meaningful relationship of joining together and working together as one of the greatest and deepest manifestations of love that God could produce. Finally, the greatest and most significant benefit that the open theist perceives over and against classical Calvinistic theism’s understanding of God (but agreeing with a fundamental of classical Arminian Theism) is the belief that human beings have libertarian free will. Open theist William Hasker defines libertarian free will as the following, “An agent is free with respect to a given action at a given time if at that time it is within the agent’s power to perform the action and also in the agent’s power to refrain from the action.” [8] This is certainly the most important over-arching theme of open theism, one of which open theists think is destroyed by the tension found in classical Arminian theology. Because they rightfully believe that one cannot hold to true libertarian freedom and at the same time hold that God has exhaustive infallible foreknowledge of all future events, they believe that (1) the logical conclusion of traditional, classical Arminian theology will always result in a fixed, invariant eternal decree and (2) if God’s knowledge is of such a quality then libertarian free will cannot exist. So, for the open theist, exhaustive, infallible foreknowledge of future free events and libertarian free will are mutually exclusive. Thus, the open theist must, by default, become a consistent Arminian by denying that God has exhaustive infallible knowledge of the future because to posit such means that the future is fixed, invariant and divinely decreed.

Let’s provide a practical example. Let’s say that Jim gets up on a Wednesday morning to get himself dressed and ready for work. Jim decides to wear a blue, long-sleeved shirt because it is winter and sometimes cold in the office he works in. According to both the classical Calvinist and Arminian theologian, God’s knowledge of Jim’s choice to don a blue, long-sleeved shirt was infallibly known from eternity past. The classical Arminian believes that God’s knowledge of Jim donning the blue shirt was a simple, passive, and exhaustive foreknowledge yet Jim still had the libertarian free will to choose the shirt. The Calvinist asks the Arminian, “Given your theology of libertarian free will, upon what basis does God have infallible and exhaustive foreknowledge from eternity past of Jim’s choice to choose which type of shirt to wear?” The classical Arminian must say one of the four things: (1) “I don’t know, that’s a good question!” or (2) “God just knew infallibly what type of shirt Jim would choose but I’m not sure how God knew it infallibly and I’m not sure anybody else can really know that kind of stuff either!” (thus dogmatically skirting the Calvinist’s question), (3) or “God had exhaustive and infallible foreknowledge of what type of shirt Jim would wear because He decreed it (thus inevitably giving up his Arminianism only to eventually embrace confessional Calvinism), or (4) “That’s a good question and I’ve thought hard about it! It seems that if God does have infallible, exhaustive knowledge of all future events then this naturally excludes any concept of libertarian free-will. The problem is though that a denial of libertarian freedom naturally leads to hard determinism/fatalism and makes it impossible for God to develop meaningful relationships with His followers because they are nothing more than puppets on strings that have been preprogrammed to do whatever God has fatalistically determined them to do. [9] Thus, I’m giving up my classical Arminianism because I’ve figured that it is hopelessly inconsistent from a philosophical standpoint and I’ve just started reading a good book by a guy named John Sanders called ‘The God Who Risks.’ Have you ever heard of this book?” (Thus rightfully avoiding a straw-man version of Calvinism only to fall into the heresy of open theism so as to be a “consistent Arminian.”)

In this author’s opinion, the open theist has correctly performed a major internal critique of the classical Arminian position of God’s foreknowledge by pointing out their supreme philosophical flaw. The problem is that they’ve opted for heresy instead of rightly understanding and embracing the classical Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty in providence. Nevertheless, such an internal critique doesn’t merely leave the classical Arminian view of God’s foreknowledge weakened, it has absolutely destroyed it altogether! ——————————————————————————–

[1] For an excellent summary of the basic assumptions of open theists, see Robert A. Pyne and Stephen R. Spencer, “A Critique of Free-Will Theism: Part I,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158 (July-September 2001): 261- 263.

[2] This is what was discussed in Part II of this series regarding Sander’s “risk-taking” model of God.

[3] Pinnock, 47 [emphasis author’s]. Cf. with p. 36. See also, John Sanders, The God Who Risks, 262.

[4] In his debate with Dr. James White on the subject of Open Theism, Dr. John Sanders contended that the future does not exist. Then he posited that God’s omniscience is different than that of the traditional understanding because God cannot logically have knowledge of that which does not yet exist. Sanders then used this idea to build a case for the “risk model” of God. See the public debate “Does God Know the Future?” in MP3 format at Aomin.org.

[5] Sanders, 12.

[6] Pinnock, 100 [emphasis author’s].

[7] Pinnock, 31 [emphasis author’s].

[8] William Hasker, “A Philosophical Perspective” The Openness of God: The Relationship of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will (Washington Review and Herald, 1980), 136-137, as cited in John Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2001), 23.

[9] Thus we have erected before us the Calvinistic straw man of the open theist!

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15 Comments on “Logical Implications of the Synergistic View of God’s Knowledge Part III”

  1. Gene Says:

    Open Theists should cease calling themselves Christians. This is process theology, plain and simple.

  2. Timmy Says:

    Gene,

    I think that is why we need to take Open Theism so seriously. Unlike process theologians, open theists attempt to take Scripture as their authority and put themselves in the evangelical camp.

    For those not that familiar with open theism, it might be worth noting that those wrote the case for open theism (i.e. The Openness of God) also wrote the case for arminianism (i.e. The Grace of God and the Will of Man). All the pro-Arminians did was take their indeterminism to full circle with their logic and came up with open theism.

  3. Craig Allen Says:

    Pastor Dustin (and Gene or others — feel free),

    I have just read the 3 articles and all comments thus far.

    I’m leaving 2 posts: First, a response to your analogy that raises my overarching question; and secondly, a scriptural/doctrinal parallel with some tentative conclusions that diverge from your thesis. In both cases, I look forward to kind and helpful responses.

    Regarding the practical example you gave above, I found it to be a stick man. Regarding Jim’s choice of a blue shirt, you are saying essentially 1) there is no answer, 2) we can’t know the answer, 3) extreme Calvinism is right, 4) Openness Theology is right. Via the stickman, #4 is untenable, #1-2 are unsatisfying, so we must arrive at #3.

    My problem is that I see vast viable territory between options #3 & #4. I’m having a hard time believing you aren’t offering at least a fifth common sensical option.

    Namely: God knows and sees all decisions we make. Sometimes He chooses to intervene actively to confirm or redirect, and sometimes He fully delegates our choices to us, leaving us to our own devices and consequences. As He has no moral investment in the color of my shirt, in all holy seriousness and proper prioritization of what matters: God doesn’t give a rip! He freely chooses to let me take responsibility and decide.

    It is one thing to declare something to be such and such, and another to prove or actually reveal it to be so. In all 3 articles you have stated that leading former Arminians have concluded that the established Arminian view of free will is unsustainable. They argue, of course, that this must lead logically to Open Theism. While you state that this must lead to full Calvinism. Maybe I am just slow to “get” it, or maybe what you’ve written is dependent on assumptions you are expecting the reader to fill in. But I am seeing a vast range – within which options may, in fact, exist for interpreting the scriptural data, between the 2 extremes. I have not read their books (and don’t plan to!), but you have not given me enough of their reasoning to confirm the invalidity of a view that balances God’s sovereignty with human responsibility.

    Here’s the Q:
    Can you explain persuasively and clearly (not simply assert that…) exactly why you (and the Op Th. guys) are convinced there can be no mediating view? Exactly where does Scripture or logic break down that does not allow congruence between people making decisions (apart from an exhaustive decree or in opposition to God’s larger intent)?

    I am not seeing it.

    Thanks, Craig

  4. Craig Allen Says:

    Post 2:

    I am presently not comfortable with how either Arminians (of any stripe) or full Calvinists have framed issues and established turf (but I do have a Calvinistic lean, with qualifications). I do absolutely desire to be completely biblical and not inappropriately force clear Scriptures into deductively determined, air-tight, logically cohesive categories that overshoot scripture, in either an extreme-Calvinistic or Openness Theology direction.

    Incidentally, Gene, I also find the distinctions Hodge has made to be very useful. Thanks for sharing them. As intuitive as they might be, they are worth stating.

    By way of analogy:

    I just read a sermon today by Charles Spurgeon. In discussing salvation, he states, “the system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once.” He approaches this larger subject of “divine sovereignty”, as “exemplified in salvation”. In a sermonic development of Romans 10:20-21, delivered Aug. 1, 1858, he carefully balances the 2 biblical realities of God’s and man’s side of the equation in salvation. His chosen descriptors are “Sovereign grace” and “Man’s responsibility.” In this case, he (I believe rightly) holds together both sides without forcing one to annihilate the other.

    He describes how an emphasis on free will that excludes the presiding of God over his actions leads to Atheism. Meanwhile, “if God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be contradictory; but they are not.”

    Particularly, he argues in his exposition that God initiated grace for salvation toward Gentiles who were not even seeking it, while Israel owns their responsibility for rejecting the Messiah even though God stretched out His hands all day long. The Gentiles salvation is attributed to God’s sovereign grace. Meanwhile, the Jews damnation is attributed to their “disobedience”; in this case their failure of responsibility. Within his conclusion he says, “Both are true and what you have to do is to believe them both.” He admits this will open him up to accusations of being “antinomian in the first part of the sermon and Arminian at the end. I care not. I beg you to search the Bible for yourselves.”

    This really resonates with me. My tension is that I find Calvinists to be apt to strongly claim the first part, but try to edit or soften the second. Meanwhile, Arminians of all stripes will heartily affirm the second and likely minimize the first.

    While I expect Calvinists fully to embrace Spurgeon’s wording of “sovereign grace” to describe God’s dealings with believers in accomplishing their salvation, I find his wording, “man’s responsibility” to be infinitely better terminology than the Arminian “free will”, or worse, the Openness Theology “libertarian free will”. I think Spurgeon’s view here effectively denies “double predestination” (in response to a comment from earlier). But I sense he has also given us alternative middle ground between staunch Calvinism and loose Arminianism, and certainly between the former and Open Theism.

    Spurgeon’s emphasis here, presumably based on his larger exegesis of Romans 9-10 is that God has *initiated* the availability of salvation by His grace to both Jews (over centuries) and now, in the fullness of time (Eph. 1:10) an expanded ministry to Gentiles. Rom. 9 emphasizes God’s sovereignty and grace toward the gentiles, and Romans 10 emphasizes man’s response to the gospel and believers’ missionary ministry with the gospel. While God maintains all credit for His gracious workings to the Gentiles as a group who were now beginning to believe, the fact is: some individuals did actually believe! Meanwhile, God also “stretched out His hands all the day long to a disobedient people” (the nation of Israel) among whom were most who did, in fact, reject Him. God’s grace and initiation for salvation went both directions. The responses made the difference. This seems to beg for middle ground.

    Contra all forms of Arminianism, there is not an emphasis on man’s ” free will” or “choice”. God always gets the credit. Salvation is provided solely by His grace. And, He determined the timing of the opportunity for the gospel to be presented to the Gentiles who would believe.

    But, contra hard Calvinism: God did call out and cry out to the Israelites. There seems to truly be a sense in which God’s “Plan A will” was thwarted by hard heartedness. Jesus’ cry in Luke 13:34 illustrates the same point. God seems to have genuinely given people the very real opportunity to resist His call and salvation offer. These scriptures cast a heavy cloud on the TULIP doctrine of “Irresistible grace”, at least when viewed from the negative side. Sure, God knew they would reject Him. And He used this rejection to pave the road to the cross which was predetermined. But the negative responsibility is given to the Jews: quite specifically for resisting God’s grace.

    The answer in this case seems apparent: the catalyst is believing faith. In other words, the trigger is pulled by the person who receives God’s grace — or not. Contra “U”, there does seem to be one biblical condition for election: believing faith. Thus, the emphasis in Eph. 2 is that “salvation” is the “gift” in view that is received by “faith”. It is an interpretive error in one direction to shift the “gift” to “faith” (in Eph. 2:9), thereby practically reducing a person’s exercise of belief to an automatron who actually has no inherent responsibility. Likewise, it is incorrect in the other direction to insist that because one exercised faith, somehow he gets credit for his salvation (as if his faith is meritorious).

    I’m not aware of any Scripture that credits believers for believing as if this is a meritorious work, or as if it is automated by God’s decree. But, John’s gospel and Paul’s letters abound with declaring believing faith to be the initiatory condition for salvation. (And how is it that any 5 points on salvation or grace do not include the all-important “F” or “B”? This omission, once thought about, is startling indeed!) But in all cases, unbelievers are condemned for disbelief. God is always credited for His gracious gift of salvation, though people must act in faith to appropriate the gift.

    Simply put: it does not follow that because people exercise faith in Christ that they were individually predetermined in all cases (though arguably in some, i.e. Moses and Paul as biblical examples), or that they have earned their salvation, or that they have unrestrained free will. Let’s stick with the word that Scripture gives us: By His omniscience and His nature of being unbound by time and space, God “foreknew” who would be saved in His everpresent “Now”.

    What Scripture affirms is that God has graciously initiated the salvation offer in general and will embrace or judge individual people for their response. And the Eph. 1 emphasis concerning what some have called a “decree” is that,
    v. 10 – all things will come together under Christ
    v. 11, 13 – we (collectively as those who were chosen, predestined, and who actually believe) will conform to the purpose of His will
    v. 12, 14 – will ultimately be for the praise of His glory

    So, back to the heart of the issue in these posts: the “plan” or ultimate “will” of God (which I prefer to the loaded “decree”) is not focused on prehistory, but maintains a forward-moving trajectory and places its focus on the sure culmination in the future, as we see it. Contra the “Open Th.” dudes, it is absolutely determined and certain. But it is the big picture climax that is in view: that all is under the headship of Christ, that believers are “in Christ”, and that all will result in the praise of God’s glory.

    With the salvation parallel in view, the following alternative ground makes sense to me:

    – God has absolutely determined the end from the beginning, as described in Eph. 1 (and elsewhere). The emphasis is unmistakably on the certainty of the end, so the Op.Th. guys are out to lunch and are simply unbiblical.

    – God is above, beyond, and unbounded by time. He can sovereignly choose to foresee (passively) or foreordain (actively) whatever He chooses. He is God. He is free. He is the only truly autonomous Being who can be said to have full “libertarian free will”.

    – God has seemingly granted people a secondary responsibility to be accountable to him for belief in the gospel and for all moral choices we make. We do not blame God for actively causing John Sander’s heresy. God did not necessarily predetermine that Clark Pinnock would write books that undermine His sovereignty. Pinnock and Sanders retain full responsibility for their actions. But, according to Eph. 1 and Romans 8:28 ff, God is not thwarted by these men’s departures in doctrine. The church will carry on. Jesus will still reign. God will still be praised.

    – We may retain these rich ultimate truths that include some specific interventions by God (chiefly that serve those redemptive purposes). There are periods of time where He works through countless minute details to raise up leaders (Moses and Paul), and confirm the actuality of salvific events (Jesus and the cross work). At other times He can activate or delegate or allow courses of nature (which He has established) to move forward as He chooses.

    – But we don’t need to require that God has exhaustively determined all events and is therefore responsible for all human actions. This would seem to be theological speculation that does, in actuality, bring God actively into all the banality and sin of man. But, God probably didn’t give a rip what flavor of coffee I drank today; He didn’t cause me to sin with pride last week, and He hasn’t determined that you might flame me for this post. Those details of life do not overthrow His will. He delegates them to us as human beings made in His image, created to rule and reign, and then continues to work through, around, and in spite of them to bring Himself glory.

    Again, I’d love to hear thoughtful feedback, kindly delivered.

    Thanks, Craig Allen

  5. Allan Says:

    Pastor Segers,
    Hello, 🙂 Starters – I not great at spelling so don’t hold that against me.
    You stated in the begging of your thesis: “…Arminian must either reject their traditional simple passive view of God’s foreknowledge only to adopt the Calvinistic view of God’s preordination of whatever comes to pass or they must logically opt for the heresy of open theism so as to remain internally consistent with their own theology.

    I do not agree with open theism but you seem to allude that an Arminian is basically the same as an open theist (only difference is they are to wishy-washy to decide on one or the other) I am not Armenian either. I believe the bible and that there is MUCH more to this theology than is looked at from one side or the other.

    Q. What would call a man of God who openly states men of this theology (Aminianism) are godly, righteous men before the Father?
    From what I gathered from the reading he would be (considered) a heritic also because he says their views though different than his own (calvanistic view) does not negate their (Arminian view) righteousness before God. (is that to much of a leap regarding what you would answer? Just asking) I know I’m wordy please bare with me.

    However if that is the case and even if not I would like to share what a great theologen, man of God, and prince of preachers once said. I read this sermon as it was refered to on another blog within this website, in showing that C.H. Spergeon was indeed a Calvanist. (Interesting) You say the two views can not co-exist (and I do agree with Craig on this issue of Gods soverienty knowing all but…) however, I noticed something that was neglected to be mentioned regarding the sermon from Spurgeon as I read further in His sermon on Calvanism. I did quote this on another blog spot on this site but it apprears relitive to this discussion about absolute views that can not co-exist but that one MUST be a herisy and the other truth. I am no theologan, so as I stated before I will let Spurgeon speak for me and my view.
    ———————————————————————————-
    It has been quoted on this site from Spurgeon:
    —I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. –
    ———————————————————————————-
    But if you will finish reading his sermon you will see what He preaches is the same as what I beieve concerning Gods soverienty and man responsibility (I do think the word “choice” is a bad word to use, but man responsiblility of choice definately descibes it better. Thank you Spergeon) Read on:

    But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.” I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.
    – Please Read This Part and Don’t Just Skim-

    I do not think I differ from any of my Hyper-Calvinistic brethren in what I do believe, but I differ from them in what they do not believe. I do not hold any less than they do, but I hold a little more, and, I think, a little more of the truth revealed in the Scriptures. Not only are there a few cardinal doctrines, by which we can steer our ship North, South, East, or West, but as we study the Word, we shall begin to learn something about the North-west and North-east, and all else that lies between the four cardinal points. The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Yet I am taught, in another part of the same inspired Word, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great measure, to his own free-will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I should be driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; —-and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. —-(emphasis added)
    I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

    Copied from Spurgeon sermon on Calvanism

    So if what I asked at the start of “if a person endorses one who holds the Armenian view” does that make them a heritic? Since you alluded in your thesis that, the fact they hold to the heretical belief automatically MAKES them heritic because they hold to a heretical doctine (Heritic = one who speaks herisy). If one endorses them they too would be considered a heritic and thus, Spurgeon is by his own words (according to your point of view) a heritic, and contributer to the same herisy. I doubt you or I could remotely parallel Spurgeon on the theological, exigeticall, or systemantic processes to even pretend to make such a statement of him as a heritic. But in his sermon we do find a (present day) calvanist nightmare in that he states the two view points agree with the bible on Gods charactor and mans responsibility. When you try to state an absoluteness in which to confine him to one (soverienty) you are then stating it negates the scripture that ascribes the other to Him as well (allowing man the free-will). Both veiws are right, the wrong veiw is anything that goes beyond to one side or the other.

    P.S. I realize my posts are long and I appologize, I can’t seem to condence it like MOST of you can and still be able to say what you mean. I write all this and still seem to miss states things sometime – God be praised Brothers – Amen


  6. Craig,

    I will be short and brief here due to a lack of time (I have to get to work). A few helpful comments:

    1. “Extreme-Calvinism” is not the word I used in regard to my post in option # 3 but “confessional Calvinism.” Confessional Calvinism refers to Calvinism that follows a Calvinistic Confession of Faith such as the 1646/1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith). “Extreme Calvinism” is a phrase used by several synergists to poison the well against orthodox, confessional Calvinism to make us 5-pointers look like the big-bad wolf. Such a word is neither warranted in this discussion nor helpful as it erects a “stick man” over and against confessional Calvinism.

    You stated,

    “Regarding the practical example you gave above, I found it to be a stick man. Regarding Jim’s choice of a blue shirt, you are saying essentially 1) there is no answer, 2) we can’t know the answer, 3) extreme Calvinism is right, 4) Openness Theology is right. Via the stickman, #4 is untenable, #1-2 are unsatisfying, so we must arrive at #3.

    [With all due respect, you can’t arrive at your # 3 because “extreme Calvinism” wasn’t an option in my post above. I used the phrase “confessional Calvinism.” Please represent my writings correctly my dear brother. You went on to say:]

    “Namely: God knows and sees all decisions we make.”

    [How does He have this knowledge? This basic question was the point of my post and the open theists have already figured out this philosophical tension in their former view of foreknowledge by rejecting it to become open theists.]

    “As He has no moral investment in the color of my shirt, in all holy seriousness and proper prioritization of what matters: God doesn’t give a rip! He freely chooses to let me take responsibility and decide.”

    [Yes you decide (no one is denying that), but what were all the contingencies responsible for your decision? Where do such contingencies begin? If chance is God is not, if God is chance is not. You seem to be positing the opposite. God does give a rip about the color of your shirt as much as he gives a care about the speed of water and wind current and the position of reed branches on the Nile (Exodus 2:3-5). He cares about the rolling of dice in Las Vegas (Pro. 16:33). He also cares about the number of hairs on your head and the seemingly insignificant death and subsequent falling of a bird’s carcass to the ground (Matt. 10:29-30).]

    It is one thing to declare something to be such and such, and another to prove or actually reveal it to be so. In all 3 articles you have stated that leading former Arminians have concluded that the established Arminian view of free will is unsustainable. They argue, of course, that this must lead logically to Open Theism. While you state that this must lead to full Calvinism.

    [No, I state that to be consistent an Arminian must embrace open theism. I am not saying that all Arminians should be consistent nor will be and I certainly thank God for the most part they aren’t, but the consistent and logical outworking of the Arminian view of foreknowledge is either to be consistent with their view of God’s exhaustive, infallible, foreknowledge of all future events and embrace the fullness of classical theism found in Confessional Calvinism or to realize that the philosophical tension in their view of foreknowledge and their concept of libertarian free will cannot be maintained lest they reject their view of foreknowledge, hence open theism.]

    “and Maybe I am just slow to “get” it, or maybe what you’ve written is dependent on assumptions you are expecting the reader to fill in. But I am seeing a vast range – within which options may, in fact, exist for interpreting the scriptural data, between the 2 extremes. I have not read their books (and don’t plan to!), but you have not given me enough of their reasoning to confirm the invalidity of a view that balances God’s sovereignty with human responsibility.”

    [Your questions supposes that confessional Calvinism is extreme. I’m afraid I can’t answer it because I don’t believe confessional Calvinism is “extreme” but biblical and this is a good reason for you to read the Calvinists. I’d suggest starting for free at http://www.monergism.com.

    Blessings,

    Pastor Dustin S. Segers]

  7. Gene Says:

    There is a fundamental problem here, Craig.

    First, nobody denies the efficacy of second causes. However, the Calvinist says that the choice you make here is caused by your nature as an agent, you wants and desires. God’s decrees render x certain, but the means is also rendered effectual. This may be by direct agency on His part or by ours apart from interference or a combination thereof.

    The Arminian attributes this to your libertarian freedom, period. Your libertarian freedom is, by definition, contra-causal. Thus your choice was uncaused. If you choice is uncaused, upon what basis is it knowable in the mind of God?

    Oh, and I deny He does not have a moral investment in the shirt you wear. The fact you chose that shirt is a reflection of His moral investment. He may have left it to you, but you’re assuming the one who feeds the sparrows and works all things after the counsel of His will does not have a moral investment in certain choices you make. What if today you meet your future wife (assuming you are a bachelor), and she is at first drawn to you by the color of your shirt (a nice blue color) and your snappy tie? Or what the waitress at your lunch counter today notices your shirt and you get in a conversation where you share the gospel with her, all because of the color of your shirt, and, what’s more, she goes home under conviction, and God opens her heart to believe…all because of the color of your shirt today.

    Certainly. Your basic opitions are the simple foreknowlege view and Molinism. The problem with both is their commitment to libertarian freedom. In Molinism, God controls the external circumstances of our lives in order to get us to comply with the ends of his decrees. The problem here is that libertarian freedom undermines this. If freedom is contracausal, then the manipulation of circumstances in a determinative fashion contradicts the assertion that in order to be truly free, we must possess libertarian freedom.

    As to the simple foreknowledge view, you have to prove libertarian freedom. On this view, there is an even more fundamental problem, for you have 2 causal agents. If there are 2 causal agents with libertarian freedom, then we have two independent first causes, and then the choices we make cannot be known by God. Why? The Arminian commitment to libertarianism undercuts the claim that God infallibly knows our future free choices and responds to them. For example, God is said to elect based on infallible foreknowledge of future faith. Here’s the problem: the commitment to a fixed future undermines libertarian freedom. There is no libertarian freedom is God has a fixed end that will certainly come about. If it is fixed, and freedom is contracausal, then you enter the world of real fatalism, where, no matter what you do and what kind of freedom you have your choices are caused. Ergo, why does one make choice x and not y. Chance?

    Was it random? Or was one man naturally just smarter or wiser than the other? If you answer with a cause, then you undermine contracausal freedom. A caused choice is not a libertarian argument, which undermines the Arminian thesis for both libertarian freedom and a fixed, certain future that is infallibly and exhaustively known.

  8. Gene Says:

    Err, this is not about their salvation, this is a judgment against Jerusalem, namely THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS themselves for having blocked the people from the means of grace, which was their job.
    This objection is one of the most frequent objections. It is a classic example of semantic anachronism in which the disputant maps dogmatic usage (modern theological usage) back onto Biblical usage, then appeals to Biblical usage, thus redefined, to disprove the dogmatic usage of his opponent. Alternatively, if the text is misquoted, it serves as a remarkable example of quoting out of context.

    Mt 23:37 alludes to a conditional covenant with the house of Israel (v38; cf. Jer 12:7; 22:5). This is preceptive, not decretive. If we want to find an example of God’s decretive will in Matthew, turn to 11:21-23. Sometimes, the disputant will quote this: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often have I wanted to gather you the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were unwilling.” The text actually reads, ““Jerusalem, Jerusalem who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often have I wanted to gather your children the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were unwilling.” Notice the difference.

    First, irresistible grace does not mean that all of God’s grace is irresistible. It means that men resist God’s grace until God directly intervenes to overcome that resistance in matters of individual salvation.

    Who are the “children” in this text? This text forms the conclusion of a pronouncement of prophetic woe on Jerusalem for doing something. In order to know who the children are, we need to ask, “Who is ‘Jerusalem?’” “Jerusalem” is the Jewish religious leaders, who, through hindrances and obstructions put before the people, which Jesus enumerated at length in the previous portion of this chapter (23:13 – 36), had kept them from God’s truth. Jesus does not say He wished to gather all of Jerusalem’s inhabitants together. He says that he wanted to gather a particular portion of them together but Jerusalem, e.g. their leaders, had obstructed Him from doing this. As a result, God’s judgment would come upon them, which, in 70 AD it certainly did, when the city was sacked by Rome and the Temple destroyed. This is an example of God preceptive will, not His will of decree or the grace of God at the time of conversion. In order to disprove irresistible grace, an Arminian needs a text that applies to the internal grace of drawing at the time of conversion itself not God giving people choices to make externally.

    The classic text for irresistible grace is John 6:37ff. The Arminian needs to deal with that text, and it clearly says that all given, come; all who come are not cast out; all who come are drawn; and all of them are raised from the dead. 6:45 makes this abundantly clear. All who are instructed by the Father come, and all who come are raised on the last day (v.44).

  9. Craig Allen Says:

    Gene,

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful replies.
    I intend to carefully consider what you’ve both written. I’ll print this out and simmer on it a bit. Meanwhile, here are my initial responses…

    You wrote of Calvinism, in part:
    “God’s decrees render x certain, but the means is also rendered effectual. This may be by direct agency on His part or by ours apart from interference or a combination thereof.”
    I’m certainly with you on the second sentence. I think I’m okay on the first sentence – at least agreeing to His larger salvific and glorifying purposes.

    However, the assumption that follows which requires that God cannot know what He has not caused does not ring true or necessary to my mind. Is not this the very claim of God’s foreknowledge? Exhaustive foreknowledge: certainly! Exhaustive causation? Not necessarily. Midsentence, I just scratched my nose. Then I flicked my hair. Is it not silly to insist that God has divine purposes in these mundane areas? I’m not for a moment suggesting that God might not in certain circumstances choose to involve himself in the iotas of life for His purposes, or that selectively He does actually cause nose itches. But that’s different than claiming that nothing happens that God can know that He didn’t actively predetermine. So this polarizing seems unnecessary. I’ll stick with what Scripture clearly confirms: God knows everything.

    I will look into “Molinism”. The sentence, “God controls the external circumstances of our lives in order to get us to comply with the ends of his decrees” sounds like a potentially promising alternative. Since I don’t buy total freedom, but only delegated responsibility, your stated problem doesn’t quite apply. I’ve read the rest of the logical, philosophical argument and don’t quite follow it. However, it’s rejection appears to also be dependent on the Arminian thesis which I don’t claim.

    I appreciated the exposition points you made, Gene, regarding aspects of the “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” passage. I concur with you about the emphasis on Jerusalem’s leadership and the temporal judgment in AD70. I’m fine with the interpretation that Jesus was extending His arms to the “children”, rather than the obstructionist leaders themselves. I think your point to me is that the passage has God’s “perceptive will” in view, and isn’t usable to contradict irresistible grace regarding individual election. However, I don’t see how Israel’s leaders’ rejection of Jesus and their obstructionism of the people is outside the sphere of that eternal decree on which you insist. If the Calvinist view of eternal decree is correct and God’s “irresistible grace” must necessarily be particularly granted to people, then clearly God withheld that grace from these religious leaders – and then this necessary grace was withheld from the “children” Jesus desired to reach – and yet still condemns them for not responding to His reaching out. I’m missing how we’ve solved anything. This actually could be an angle for Arminians who, in this framing, would point to a weakness or inability of God to accomplish His purposes. I could hear them assert: “Look here: Jesus was unable to save these people he was crying out to.” I’d rather stick with the clarity of John’s gospel: God will accomplish His ultimate purposes in glorifying Himself through Christ and those who reject Christ are self-condemned.

    I think, Gene, that your interpretation of John 6 is possible, even likely. I have taught it myself. And your clarifying about what “irresistible grace” means and doesn’t mean is very helpful to me. Maybe it should be called “irresistible intervention”, as you confirm that His grace is routinely resisted. However, compare that to the legion of verses on the activator of faith/belief, and it is clear where the scriptural emphasis lies. A theology of salvation should not only be “true as far as it goes”, but maintain appropriate emphasis. Again, it was stunning to me to realize recently that TULIP’s emphases disregards by omission a person’s faith. By pursuing a monergystic emphasis exclusively, does not TULIP, as normally presented, minimize the very condition of man’s response that the New Testament incessantly requires for salvation to “take”?

  10. Allan Says:

    Gene,
    I would honestly give anything to write like you, seriously.
    Anyhoo, Regarding your last paragraph stating:

    The classic text for irresistible grace is John 6:37ff. The Arminian needs to deal with that text, and it clearly says that all given, come; all who come are not cast out; all who come are drawn; and all of them are raised from the dead. 6:45 makes this abundantly clear. All who are instructed by the Father come, and all who come are raised on the last day (v.44).

    If you hold to John 6 as the definer of irresistible grace you have a huge problem with this text, as you will see irresistible grace is not it’s context.

    (vs 37) does not show irrestible grace but Gods soveriegn drawing to Christ, then we come to a word that is very important to denote a second aspect in relation to the first… the word “And” = in addition to what was stated… Jesus is stating if the Father brings a person the Son, the Son will not reject him. Like you state (no can come to salvation unless God draw them)

    (vs38) States Jesus came to do His Fathers – Which is…vs 39 & 40

    (vs39) ALL the Father hath given Him, He should lose nothing but ALL will be raised from the dead (this is a plain reference to eternal security especially in light of the next verse as context dictates)

    (vs40) Everyone that sees (perceives or knows who He is) AND BELIEVES will have everlasting life and will be raised up.

    There now appears to be a qualifier for between God drawing and revealing, and the keeping and raising up at the last day. One MUST believe. The word believe in and of itself denotes a conscience choice made AND it shows it was a choice between to OPPOSING views (if you will) This qualifier is set in place by Jesus in relation to Gods Will. When you look at vs 44 we see it is a paraphrase refering to those who HAVE believed to be raised.

    Vs 45 does make this abundantly clear when taken in context of the preceding verses names vs 47 -He that BELIEVES on me has eternal life. Thus Jesus is not showing irrestistable grace but both His soverienty and man responcible choice to believe. Two views own by the same God. Like I stated in my earlier post concern what C.H. Spurgeon said about the same thing.

    Jesus illistrates this by stating His body is the bread and His blood the drink and He states the UNLESS you eat and drink of me (we know the rest but safice to say) He does not state any responsiblity on the Father that they should eat but of the people to choose to partake of Christ – symbolically – It MUST be a choice to follow… And yes, I do know that just beyond that in vs 65 it does state “…No man cometh unto me unless it were give him of My Father” Is this statement showing irresistible grace (not in light of previous scripture) or is it showing again No one can come to a knowledge of who Jesus is unless the Father reveal it. The only way to find the answer is to look at the preceding vss again. Look at vs 70 – Have not I CHOSEN you TWELVE but one of you is a devil. Jesus chose twelve (no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draw him) and one was not of His fold – How can this be if the chapter was about irresistible grace. It is not, but Gods soverienty in spite of mans choices. Maybe this is why Jesus said “many are CALLED, but FEW are chosen. or many shall come to me in that day saying Lord, Lord…and He will say…depart into everlasting darkness.

    John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath life, he that believeth not does not have life and the wrath of God abideth on him.

    Clearly denotes choice as irresistible grace would never allow wrath to be on one who was preordained unto life but their choice will determine if the wrath ALL are under will remain on them. For God so loved the World…For God sent not His Son into the world…to condem the WORLD but that the WORLD through HIM might be SAVED. God would that NONE should perish but that ALL would come to repentence…. Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord… These statements and many more stand in stark contrast to irresistible grace but not in contrast to the two veiws Jesus points out in the very text you asked us to look at.

    If I’m wrong then let me know but even you have stated all things pertaining to scripture but be looked at in light of contextual analysis. And I do not see anything but contradiction to irresistible grace here. And if it is found in one place (contradiction) in scripture it MUST be re-evaluated. At least I think so. Can’t wait to hear – GOD BLESS YOU TRULY

  11. Craig Allen Says:

    Pastor Dustin,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. Please know that my heart is not to be dissentious or divert your BLOG to remedial discussions. In cruising the web, I somehow came upon your BLOG and your writings on this subject have intersected an area of significant theological reflection within me recently. Previously, a couple years ago, I happened upon your church website in researching Reformed Baptists. For awhile, I found myself moving in that direction of embrace, but have more recently been prone to dissatisfaction with the traditional formulations on this topic, and disappointed with potentially unwarranted polarizations. I am very grateful that Reformed Baptists have departed from Presbyterian Covenant Theology at certain crucial points re: the nature of Baptism, Communion, and local government. I am also seeing value in considering reformulating a more biblically coherent understanding in other areas established by historic Covenant theology that seem to not account for all the biblical data, particularly New Covenant realities. Recently, I’m increasingly seeing the TULIP analogy — that flows *logically* from the emphasis on a particular understanding of the eternal decree and Covenant Theology precommitments – as elegant, but inappropriately forced, and out of proportion with the biblical data. But I am in process, uncemented, and hope to remain teachable and persuadable by what scripture truly asserts. Because sides have been so polarized for so long, and systems of thought are so mature and entertwined, there are seemingly few forums to give consideration to mediating alternative views.

    In this pursuit, I will plan to spend some time reading up on monergism.com, as you suggest. I’m assuming the name does give away the “lean”!

    Know that I meant no slight by my references to “hard” or “extreme” Calvinism in contrast to “Confessional Calvinism.” I was intending no specific distinction. It appears that was a stumbling block for you to consider the substance of my comments toward a mediating position between Calvinism and Arminianism. My point of contrast was intended to highlight the poles of Calvinism and Open Theism, with the effort to acknowledge that maybe some significant territory really does exist between the poles, that is viable, defensible, even biblical.

    While Spurgeon was a self-described Calvinist, as noted, the sermon I quoted from did (rightly I think) acknowledge a balance that some presentations of uncompromising Calvinism miss, in my experience. I thought Spurgeon nailed the biblical balance of what God retains (including the complete work of salvation finished and graciously offered) and what He delegates (responsibility for people to believe or reject the gospel).

    To my reading, your blogposts and reply are arguing that once an Arminian believes he has free will, that logical consistency will force him to Openness theology conclusions (or that he will give up his views and fully embrace Calvinism). That’s all I intended with my previous post’s phrasing. Is the air clear?

    On to my intended point for dialogue or comment:
    I think there is a vast array of believers who truly want nothing more than to be completely biblical who find the established systems (and these limited options) wanting — either because clear inductive scriptural teaching, or due to concerns about practical implications or misdirected emphasis. Some of us would need strong persuading (not just assertion) that a mediating view is truly not possible.

    Again, I firmly deny that we have, in any real sense, “libertarian free will”. Only God has this. He alone is intrinsically free. The Openness guys are flat wrong. However, I do not (at least presently) feel forced by their error to the other pole (by whatever name) by clear scriptural teaching. I think the burden would be on those who deny that God has given men actual responsibility in life’s choices and response to Him. It’s a very delicate task to avoid arriving at fatalism or some form of robotic compliance once committed to hard determinism. I’ve rejected the libertarian view, but I’m not sure the polarized option of decretally-based Calvinism can be managed and sustained.

    What I am presently considering is *not* the slippery slope within Arminianism, but the likelihood of very real solid footing *between* Arminianism and, I’ll use your term, “confessional Calvinism”. I may be proven wrong – that no such ground exists. This is exactly why I’m taking time to post here. I’m somewhat testing a working idea. And I genuinely appreciate your insights that may help confirm or destroy the thesis.

    Let me try out the thesis in a different arena.
    I see in Genesis 1:26-31 that part of the essence of being made to image God includes a delegated authority to rule and reign over God’s creation. Man gets no credit for the creation. God alone gets the glory. He made it all. However, man is given true and actual responsibility for handling the creation under his governance. As a specific immediate example (and unrelated for our purposes as to whether or not there was a “covenant of works” or distinctions pre-and post Gen. 3:15). God delegated the naming of the animals, the tending of the crops, etc. truly to Adam. Adam’s choices of names for the animals was a derived (vs. inherent) authority, but was in fact, his. I follow the potentiality your logic (and Gene’s), that at least in some cases it really did matter what the actual names were (i.e. calling a “butterfly” as such may have prompted a spiritual conversation with Eve that God intended for His purposes — to modify the “blue shirt” analogy). Yet, there seems to be an appropriate arbitrariness within this delegation that does not necessarily rob God of His glory or rule out His overall superintending of things.

    In this passage, by a fair and straightforward reading, I am not immediately compelled to logically choose between:

    OPTION A: God pre-determined every name of every animal and actively preconditioned or directed Adam exhaustively to choose each precise name. (It is certainly possible that He was particularly interested in some, such as “Lion” and “Lamb” for future theological purposes, and may well have directed some influence where He saw fit.)

    or OPTION B: God was completely unaware what names Adam would choose, and every name caught Him by surprise.

    Yet, choosing between these options (with the assumption that A is correct) is the position you require of us. Meanwhile, I see a sensible middle option that takes Scripture as it comes. In this case, Gen. 2:19b-20 states, “He brought them (the animals) to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock…”

    Why can we not just take “foreknowledge” of life’s details at face value and believe both truths: that God knew what names Adam would give the animals, but did not (in likelihood in most cases) predetermine those names. Or, consider the potentiality that God operates as Jesus did on earth – where His omniscience is perpetually available to Him but selectively drawn upon. Thus the human reading above, “to see what He would name them.” It’s not that God didn’t know, but that He entered into time into Adam’s temporality and experienced that situation with Adam in a manifested experience. (By the way, this has awesome ministry implications, if we weren’t so burdened at the moment theologically.) To say God didn’t actively determine the details is not to say God doesn’t “care”. I was unnecessarily flippant on a previous post. Yes, God knows about every hair on my head and cares about every fallen sparrow and is concerned that we are clothed and have food to eat. But I don’t see how it necessarily follows that either God predetermined everything (like the unclothed millions who starve today) or must be clueless and therefore powerless to accomplish His purposes. No one leads their argument with their warts, but both the Calvinist and Arminian implications eventually reach untenable conclusions about God’s character on their backsides.

    As a side comment, I’m not sure that Calvin’s insistence on “foreknowledge” emphasizing a relationally conceived prior-knowing rather than prescience or confident awareness helps us out. I also lean toward that more consistent understanding of “knowledge” in scripture as a whole, and am inclined to think Calvin is correct on the word’s basic meaning. But this can’t be taken literally, or we would end up with pre-human eternity past existence a la Mormonism. So, the implications of conjecturing here still don’t advance the argument. However we understand the gut meaning of foreknowledge, a spiritual knowledge within the (forward-looking) eternally (present) mind of God remains in view.

    In this case, we have explicit scripture revealing that God chose to act supernaturally in creation and receives all glory for this (Gen. 1-2). Meanwhile, He delegates very natural, pedestrian matters to people who then bear full responsibility for their stewardship. Yet God is not unaware of what He has delegated but not caused. He can both know the end and view the process in the now. Maintaining both realities is not a contradiction for God. Yet it appears that the Calvinist-Openness debate is framed this way (apparently by both sides). Additionally, God can personally intervene wherever He sees fit, as is also revealed in Gen. 1-3. In this matter of naming the animals, Adam had neither autonomous free will nor a script he was merely playing out. Rather, he had partial freedom that was delegated by God – a true middle ground. There was a real-time dynamic interplay wherein God selectively intervened through a mixture of causation (creation) and delegation (naming of animals). Again, He gets the glory. Yet Adam had the responsibility; which as others have noted requires “respons-ability”. At least in this area, Adam did okay.

    Moving toward related issues of salvation:
    Since the fall, our unredeemed will is severely degenerate and warped. The heinousness of our sinfulness and sins completely separates us from the presence of God and leaves us absolutely unable to justify ourselves or earn forgiveness. But that provides the setting for the gospel, not the ruling out of its availability or power! To say we cannot save ourselves is not to say we cannot respond to the call of the gospel offered to us. The emphasis of Romans 10:8-17 is that the proclaimed message of the gospel is actually what gives rise to the very believing-faith that applies salvation. The heart of the gospel is that the very work of God through Jesus is available now for all to respond. It seems much stronger to me to believe that this is the eternal decree in view – as I previously described from Eph. 1. He in fact holds us responsible for our response (again – Spurgeon’s 2nd point that he insists must be held in tension with God’s “sovereign grace”), because we are actually enabled at some level to respond. Yes, our will is in bondage, pervasively so, but this cannot be total. Or, if it is total in theory, part of the New Covenant promise is that the Holy Spirit enlivens and empowers to word of the gospel to do it’s saving work.

    (Maybe it is at this crucial juncture that Calvinists have historically missed the “respons-ability” of the as yet unreemed. By nature we are objects of wrath and spiritually dead – separated – from God. But the Word, as it is presented by believers through the Holy Spirit, enlivens people so the “dead” actually “hear”, and are thus judged or granted salvation by their response.)

    Is not the Parable of the Seeds/Sower/Soils instructive here? God uses various means to scatter the seed of His Word on the soils of people’s hearts. The gospel message effectiveness is within reach and can potentially take root. The effectiveness in some people in this parable is not based (contextually) on a prior decree, but (clearly asserted) on the soil itself – the heart’s response to the Word of God. Again the dual-emphasis is retained on both the power of God to save, and the responsibility of man to allow the seed of His Word to root itself – or not. Thus the multitude of passive appeals to “believe”, “accept”, and “yield” ourselves to the gospel. And the rebukes for hardheartedness to those who refuse.

  12. Craig Allen Says:

    Related (sorry, I’m just getting out a lot of issues that have been welling up), the TULIP formation, while charitably called “doctrines of grace” only offers grace to the predetermined elect. (I’m not discounting God’s common grace to all, of rain, love, etc., but emphasizing the vast difference between earthly life and eternity). If 5% of the world’s population now living will die as part of the elect, the TULIP formulation takes great care of them. But it leaves God responsible for failing to include in His positive decree the 95% of people who will die apart from His “Irresistible Grace” (or compelling intervention). If, comparatively, hell is full and in the midst of a building expansion and the wedding feast room is small, the Calvinistic formulation is compelled to stake the responsibility for the status quo on God’s decree from eternity past. Certainly the negative corollary to the exhaustive decree must also be asserted: Whomever God did not decree is left in their sin. Coupled with the traditional doctrine of eternal hell, the Arminians do have a viable line of human reasoning to question God’s character, thus conceived.

    I understand the Reformed individually-applied interpretation of Paul’s argument from Romans 9 where many are convinced Paul answers this question by putting us in our place. And some are satisfied that God is “glorified” by condemning the vast majority of His created beings to the Lake of Fire for eternity. I’m not so good with that framing anymore. On further inspection, this passage seems to be not declaring a doctrine of individual salvation/rebrobation based on a decree, so much as revealing New Covenant realities and transitions that include a corporate/national changing of the guard that Paul is emphasizing throughout Rom. 9-11. So, what appears to be the strongest passage for God’s decree (and reprobation) is found to actually not be teaching that. (It is possibly an application – Spurgeon and Calvin apparently thought so). Again, this brings us to the very pertinent point of Spurgeon’s interpretation of balancing realities of God’s grace and human responsibility. Also, Romans 11 indicates this (partial) hardening of Israel provides the opportunity for them to be subjects of His grace as well, bringing them also into the purview of the forward trajectory of “in Christ” realities. So, even this potentially conclusive passage fails to seal the confirmation for TULIP/decretal theology. Meanwhile, the overwhelmingly consistent Scriptural appeals to believe the gospel rest the responsibility for disbelief not on a past exhaustive eternal decree of particular redemption and mass exclusion, but on people’s actual response of belief or disbelief. I don’t know how pure Calvinism can responsibly get past this negative conundrum and persuade those not already “in the system” that it accounts for all the salient data in the proper balance.

    Is not a mediate position demanded? At least worthy of serious consideration?

    Again, I really appreciate thoughtful (and kind) feedback as I am working through this. If where I’m going has any validity, it obviously must withstand scrutiny.

    Thanks for consideration, Craig


  13. [Craig, I’ll be short for the sake of time but please don’t take this as rudness on my part. I’m a daddy and a husband, work a 40+ hour/week job, working on a second seminary degree, preparing for a debate, and I’m the pastor of a small Sovereign Grace Baptist Church so I’m sure you’ll understand. It is good to hear that you desire to have a “teachable” spirit. That is surely what we all need to have without throwing our fundamental understandings of who God is and what He requires of us out the door. This is what the open theist has done thus necessitating my articles on this series. It is great that you’ll read at monergism.com and yes there will be a healthy “lean” over there. However, our goal should be to determine which bias is the best bias to be biased with! We are all biased toward varying views for varying reasons, but when it all comes down to it, we should always be willing to subject our most precious presuppositions to the Word of the Living God. Wouldn’t you agree? I’m very familiar with doing so since I used to be a former atheist. You said,]

    Know that I meant no slight by my references to “hard” or “extreme” Calvinism in contrast to “Confessional Calvinism.” I was intending no specific distinction. It appears that was a stumbling block for you to consider the substance of my comments toward a mediating position between Calvinism and Arminianism.

    [I took issue with the use of such terms because they have been carelessly thrown around in the last few years by people who have purposefully misrepresented what historical, confessional Calvinism is. This is exactly what occurs when I hear synergists calling confessional Calvinists “hypercalvinists” Confesional Calvinism is NOTHING akin to the historic understanding of hypercalvinism and those who disagree with the doctrines of grace (for whatever reason) do not have the prerogative to revise history and build a straw man so as to poison the well against confessional Calvinism. Thus, please be careful to use historically accurate definitions when referring to confessional Calvinism lest you lose respect from the well-read Calvinists whose ears you desire to gain a legitimate hearing from.]

    My point of contrast was intended to highlight the poles of Calvinism and Open Theism, with the effort to acknowledge that maybe some significant territory really does exist between the poles, that is viable, defensible, even biblical.

    [If you are looking for a philosophical and scholarly (but non-biblical) mediating point, you’ll eventually find yourself looking to William Lane Craig’s “Middle-Knowledge View” (a.k.a. Molinism). An article briefly discussing this can be found here: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle2.html. Molinism says that God is bound by time and it was developed as an attempt to resolve the tension between divine foreknowledge and free will without appealing to divine timelessness. Interestingly enough, the Five Points of the Remonstrance of 1610 (Arminian) are pretty much identical to Catholic Molinism. Molinism attempted to combat the Scriptural and Reformation belief that sinners have lost freedom of will to believe the gospel apart from divine monergism. Molinism/”Middle-Knowledge” defends the Tridentine dogma which teaches: “that freedom of will has not been destroyed by original sin, and that this freedom remains unimpaired under the influence of Divine grace” (Cf. Sess. VI, can iv-v in Denzinger, “Enchiridion”, ed. Bannwart, Freiburg, 1908, nn. 814-15).

    Luis de Molina was a Jesuit theologian. He wrote, “The Harmony of Free Will with the Gifts of Divine Grace”, in which he taught that efficacious grace does not move the will to cooperate with it (like the Reformers) but that the free will makes grace efficacious by cooperating with that self-same grace (like the prevenient grace doctrine of the Arminians and Romanists). The Molinists emphasized that God had a universal, divine salvific will and often maintained that God elects to salvation those whom He foreknows will cooperate with his grace (Hence the simple, passive foreknowledge view of the Arminians that is rejected by the open theist). Thus God’s foreknowledge, the scientia media (Middle-knowledge), was held to act as a sort of “middle” mechanism between the human free will on the one hand, and the efficacy of grace and of divine election on the other. So there’s the popular mediating view, already codified by the Romanists through a Jesuit scholar over 400 years ago and now lovingly adopted by some scholarly evangelicals. You also went on to say,]

    “To my reading, your blogposts and reply are arguing that once an Arminian believes he has free will, that logical consistency will force him to Openness theology conclusions (or that he will give up his views and fully embrace Calvinism). That’s all I intended with my previous post’s phrasing. Is the air clear?”

    [I’m saying that IF the Arminian desires to hold on to his concept of libertarian free will, then he of logical necessity has to reject his view of simple passive foreknowledge and thus adopt Open Theism by default. But thanks be to God that most Arminians could care less about being consistent, they are interested in holding onto both in tension so as to preserve both contradictory propositions and remain orthodox. You said,]

    On to my intended point for dialogue or comment:
    I think there is a vast array of believers who truly want nothing more than to be completely biblical who find the established systems (and these limited options) wanting — either because clear inductive scriptural teaching, or due to concerns about practical implications or misdirected emphasis. Some of us would need strong persuading (not just assertion) that a mediating view is truly not possible.

    [Here’s why Molinism is not possible neither biblically nor logically: http://www.apuritansmind.com/PuritanWorship/McMahonHeresyMiddleKnowledge.htm In my experience, those who find the doctrines of grace wanting either do not understand them or they do not like them because they understand them. Neither position is acceptable because you can’t attack something you don’t understand lest you build a straw man and you don’t reject something simply because you don’t like it. You reject something because it is false. You said,]

    “Again, I firmly deny that we have, in any real sense, “libertarian free will.”

    [Then you must, by logical necessity embrace theological monergism or be inconsistent. Denying libertarian free-will rules out synergism from the get-go.]

    “Only God has this. He alone is intrinsically free.”

    [A friendly correction: Even God does not have libertarian free-will (as defined in Part II of my series on this issue by Hasker) because God cannot act contrary to His own nature.]

    “The Openness guys are flat wrong. However, I do not (at least presently) feel forced by their error to the other pole (by whatever name) by clear scriptural teaching.”

    [Then with all due respect, you remain philosophically and theologically inconsistent . . . especially since you agreed above that true libertarian free-will cannot exist.]

    I think the burden would be on those who deny that God has given men actual responsibility in life’s choices and response to Him.

    [Straw man # 1. Confessional Calvinists don’t deny that the unregenerate man is responsible to repent and believe the gospel. You don’t understand confessional Calvinism nor the Scriptures in regard to this issue. The 1689 London Baptist Confession states,

    Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree
    1._____ God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.
    ( Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5 )]

    “It’s a very delicate task to avoid arriving at fatalism or some form of robotic compliance once committed to hard determinism. I’ve rejected the libertarian view, but I’m not sure the polarized option of decretally-based Calvinism can be managed and sustained.”

    [I wouldn’t believe that stuff either if this is what confessional Calvinism actually taught, thus this is straw man # 2. Here’s the difference between fatalism and theological determinism: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/misunderstandings.html
    You went on to say:]

    “What I am presently considering is *not* the slippery slope within Arminianism, but the likelihood of very real solid footing *between* Arminianism and, I’ll use your term, “confessional Calvinism”. I may be proven wrong – that no such ground exists. This is exactly why I’m taking time to post here. I’m somewhat testing a working idea. And I genuinely appreciate your insights that may help confirm or destroy the thesis.”

    [You’ll eventually end up with Molinism/”Middle-knowledge” position so as to cast-off what you wrongly believe to be confessional Calvinism (i.e., the two straw men noted above). I already see much of this type of thinking already in your previous post regarding the choosing of the names of the animals in the garden of Eden, etc. Well, I’m out of here as I need to work on my sermon, but please read the links above and continue your study at Monergism.com and I trust that the Lord will bless your studies!

    Pastor Dustin S. Segers
    http://www.graceinthetriad.com]

  14. Craig Allen Says:

    Pastor Dustin,

    Thanks for the interaction, the comments, the clarifications, and the links.

    God’s blessings on your ministry and seminary studies.

    I’ll continue to study this out…

    Craig


  15. Craig,

    Keep on studying and take your time. This stuff takes years to sort through. Eventually the Lord will help you sort through it all.

    Pastor Dustin S. Segers
    http://www.graceinthetriad.com


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