Thursday, December 4, 2008

Divine Jujitsu

Here are some verses of scripture commonly used to teach a deterministic model of divine sovereignty:

"The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, He turns it wherever He wishes"

"The Most High rules in the kingdom of men and sets up over it whomever He chooses"

"A sparrow does not fall to the ground and die apart from your Fathers will"

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord"

Certainly scripture is true when it says: "The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, He turns it wherever He wishes" But this does not, as the determinist supposes, necessitate a deterministic interpretation. Pharaoh worshipped idols long before God sent plagues upon Egypt. The thorns that Jesus said choke the seed, that is the word, had deep roots in his heart long before God sent Moses to free his people. And God did not cause Pharaoh to be an idolator, nor any of us to sin. Scripture itself says directly, in the same passage, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Since the same sun that melts butter also hardens clay, one can easily see that the heart of a hardened idolator like Pharaoh would likely only be further hardened by God's judgement.

God certainly does control each of our hearts, but not in the way determinists suppose. Rather, the Sovereign Lord employs a much more sophisticated sovereignty than one of brute force. The Lord maintains control over a universe populated with free agents the way a master of Judo or Jujitsu is in control of a fight against a powerful opponent. In Judo or Jujitsu, the "techniques that relied solely on superior strength [are] discarded or adapted in favour of those that involved redirecting the opponent's force, off-balancing the opponent, or making use of superior leverage." "[Judo] is characterized by the indirect application of force to defeat an opponent. More specifically, it is the principle of using one's opponent's strength against him and adapting well to changing circumstances. For example, if the attacker was to push against his opponent he would find his opponent stepping to the side and allowing his momentum (often with the aid of a foot to trip him up) to throw him forwards". (wikipedia: What determinists fail to recognize in scripture is the tremendous freedom God permits angelic and human beings to resist and oppose his will.

Certainly scripture is true when it says: "The Most High rules in the kingdom of men and sets up over it whomever He chooses" But a deterministic interpretation of this verse does not treat with respect the divine jujitsu. Remember that God never intended Israel to have a king. In her sin, Israel longed to be like the nations. God wanted to be Israel's only king. But God conceded. Yes, divine concession! Then, if that weren't enough to unequivocally prove dynamic sovereignty, the man God chose from among his people---God's chosen king---fails to fulfill God's will. And what does God declare in scripture? "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." (I Sam 15.11)

The Potter whom the Reformed attempt to paint as a meticulous, coercive despot is the Potter whom Jeremiah describes as a responsive, adaptive artist. When the clay is marred, the Potter reacts, compensates, reconsiders. This is how God expresses his sovereignty: "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it." (Jer 18.7-10)

Certainly Jesus is telling the truth when he says, "A sparrow does not fall to the ground and die apart from your Fathers will." He is likewise being truthful when he pleads so earnestly that the Father change his plan in Gethsemane that he sweated great drops of blood. Jesus, being very God, treats God's will as contingent and intercedes, as many like Moses did in generations before him, to possibly change the future. So, yes, the Father's will encompasses all life and death, but the Father's will is no blueprint, but an improvisational symphony he conducts with all creation.

And finally, stripped of its context (amidst the many, many proverbs that emphasize our responsibility to act and choose righteousness and trust in the Lord), this one proverb can easily be understood to mean something no singular Christian with any rational faculty believes. Certainly if every cast of the lot was the decision of the Lord this would be the overwhelmingly prescribed methodology for discerning the will of God in the New Testament. In fact, were this the case, the authors of the New Testament who overwhelmingly prescribe submission to, fellowship with, and guidance from the Holy Spirit as the primary means of discerning God's will, did not get the memo.

May the God revealed in scripture, the God who so longs to transport we who were once his enemies into his love, that he took on flesh, suffered and died, reveal to us his dynamic sovereignty of suffering, vulnerability and risk---his divine jujitsu.


Tim said...

Yo T.C.,

I agree with your disclaimer and know that it is nothing personal but pointed at the systems of theology. I also agree that we need to challenge our assumptions... which is why I find this so ironic. I believed in the free will as you see it and decided to challenge my assumptions and now I believe in the determined will of God. Ha. I actually have read more Boyd than Calvin or Augustine combined. (which isn't much in either case)

A. You presume that the implications of determinism are grotesque and that those implications must lead to the thought that God is evil. You said the fate of people under determinism is "arbitrarily chosen" as if God acts arbitrarily in determining. Because He has not revealed all of His reason to you does not make it arbitrary, random, or on a whim. You are asking, in this first section, Why does God find fault? For who can resist His will? You cannot reconcile it and therefore say that determinism equates God with being evil. Will the thing formed say to him formed it 'Why have you made me like this?'

B. Being dead is not an analogy. You impose that on the text. The analogy of marriage between a man and a woman is continually compared to that of Christ and His chosen bride. The Hebrew authors most certainly would understand the Bridegroom choosing the Bride... except that the Bridegroom in this case is so wonderful that no one will not reciprocate that love when chosen. When God graciously blinded the Apostle Paul so that He could open his spiritual eyes... He told Ananias that "he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." Do you think Paul was upset how God had mercy on him and opened his eyes? If Paul had his way he would still be persecuting the church. Paul expounds the doctrine of God's complete sovereignty better than anyone and because of the abundance of revelations he received was given a thorn in the flesh. In recounting his conversion in Acts 22 Paul says that Ananias told him "The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth." When using the marriage analogy in Eph 5 Paul says "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" He is not speaking of the great mystery of a husband and wife which is why he makes the distinction.

Your system of thought discounts and explains away the consequence to free will in Adam. Your interpretation says God spoke in an analogy to Adam about his death when he disobeyed which is contrary to the rest of scripture in which God details out consequences. The wages of sin is death. God graciously (mercifully) guarded the way to the Tree of Life lest man's state remain the same forever. Death wasn't an analogy.

Yes, I hang all of this on mankinds fallen state as taught in scripture. That after Adam and Eve's fall all of the thoughts of man's heart were continually evil and it grieved God that He made man. And, yes, you can grieve continually before, during, and after an event (death) regardless of your, or God's foreknowledge of it. So God, being just, decided to destroy man after letting them be born and die while every intent of the thoughts of mens hearts was continually evil. But Noah found unmerited, undeserved favor and mercy in God's eyes. Noah's "justness" and walk with God was due to God's favor and will in Noah's life. God would be just and perfectly righteous in letting Noah perish with everyone else. God appointed the seed of Seth upon which He had favor (unmerited) in order to accomplish His will (Genesis 4:25-26). 2 Peter 2:5 says God "did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;" Apart from the unmerited favor of God acting upon the will of man... man is doomed and unable to please God.

Then the law was given. The law made nothing perfect (Heb 7:18-19). Through the law, sin became exceedingly sinful and showed that man was unable to please God through his own choosing and acting. All mankind is carnal, sold under sin (Rom 7:13-14). Your premise, with regard to the implications of Romans 5:18-19, is incorrect. I do not take it out of its context as you do when describing my position (you describe my position incorrectly). In verse 12 it says "Therefore just as through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned-" I do not make the text to mean something it does not as you do in describing it. Scripture is clear that all have sinned and death reigns through sin and that not all will be saved.

C. You state. "Can a person truly regret making a decision the outcome of which s/he not only fully anticipated, but "ordained"? The answer is: no."
I do not regret to inform you that the answer to that question is yes. It is very easy even for us to regret things that we know to be inevitable. God knew that the children of Israel would reject Him and ask for a king to rule over them and told Samuel beforehand that they would cry out to be rid of Saul (1 Sam 8:18). Strangely enough when God does reject Saul in 1 Samuel 15 and both Samuel and God are grieved (and they both knew beforehand)... it is also the same chapter where God declares through Samuel "And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent." That also means "change His mind" or "relent". From the same passage, would you condemn God as evil for commanding the utter genocide of Amalek? Saul spared people whom God told him to judge and in the same chapter God rejected Saul for his actions.

Your answers to my questions;
1) I like and agree with your answer. Where I know we differ is that, as you are "one who believes, and are thus included in Christ" I would say God knew you, chose you, and mercifully willed you to Himself against the inclination of your heart which was only evil.

2) I agree more with what you said than Boyd. Scripture does not portray God as knowing all possible outcomes but not the one that will happen. His example of a random accident is poor. It sounds more like philosophical opinion than scripturally based. So the very hairs of our head are numbered, a sparrow is not forgotten before God, God's thoughts toward us are more than can be numbered, we are told to fear "Him who after He has killed, has power to cast into hell", and yet God doesn't know before the manner in which we will die. So when Jesus tells Peter that Peter would die, telling him how he would glorify God in his death, he didn't foreknow any of the circumstances... just all the possibilities? So the God who at every instant can protect us and carry our lives in His hand doesn't know what is about to happen... just all of the possibilities and therefore He can react as though He did. Acts 17:26-27 says God "...made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him..." . Isaiah 46:9-10 says "...I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure." Speaking of His own counsel in Ephesians 1 (which as you mentioned is Christological) it says that He works "all things according to the counsel of His will."

Those who defend the free will of human and angelic beings, defend it over and above the free will of God in determining who to have mercy on. Continually it gets pointed to the will of man "believe on the Lord Jesus", "Trust in the Lord" and "He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." Jesus explained it this way in the next verse of John 6:35-38 "But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." In verse 44 He says "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..."

Jesus being completely free in His will, lived the life that the first Adam was unable to live. Jesus lived the life that you and I are unable to live. He didn't come to do His own will but in all things submitted His free will to the Fathers determined will for His life. Speaking of the Messiah Psalm 40:8 says " I delight to do Your will, O my God, and your law is within my heart." So the Apostle Paul understood this and when speaking of his labors says "I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." He understood his own inability to choose to obey the will of God. That is why he says again in Philippians 2:12-13 " you have always obeyed... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." It is because of this working that the elect will all the more cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus knowing that all of the works they did was God working in them. And if any of us would think to cry out "why me and not another" for now God has told us "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." Rom 9:15. I do find it fascinating that in the Greek in Rom 9:22 the verb "prepared" is passive in "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" and yet it is active in "vessels of mercy, which He had prepared".

In response to your question:
I would not use the word condescend as it implies arrogance and God is not arrogant. I would not even say 'deign' as God has communicated, even though we might say God has deigned to communicate to us. The infinite, all wise God has no trouble communicating in such a way that we understand. It is not comparable to us trying to communicate to an ant what it is like to be human. We are not all wise or all knowing. God has no trouble in His limitless capability to communicate to us in ways that we understand Him perfectly.

The criteria in judging a passage of scripture in determining what God is telling us from the truth of that passage is first and foremost a submission to His will by His Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor. The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God and makes known the things that the natural man cannot understand because they are spiritually discerned. Secondly, a passage must be judged by the rest of scripture. Therefore all scriptures must be held in the light of all the rest of scripture, and therefore it is used in interpreting itself.

Again, thank you for responding. I enjoy the discussion and there is so much more scripture to dig through.

T. C. said...


In light of the length of this post ive just written, i've succumb to reality that unless we narrow the focus of theses exchanges to one or two points, they will only get increasingly longer until we would be foolish not to simply publish them in book form the way John Sanders and Christopher Hall did in "Does God have a Future?" Can we agree to limit the scope of our discussion significantly? I realize that there is a lot to discuss here (ive been discussing it for 10 years) but i just think our time would be better spent if we werent all over the map, so to speak. So, i apologize for the inordinate length of this post.

Re: The secret knowledge of determinists

Here's what you wrote: "Because He has not revealed all of His reason to you does not make it arbitrary, random, or on a whim."

Is it as interesting to you as it is to me that you base your entire system of theology on what you admit God *hasn't* revealed rather than on what he HAS revealed? Because i find it fascinating. You and all determinists are comfortable side-stepping all the immense biblical data that reveals God's universal salvific will (his desire to save *Everyone*) and instead choose to believe that God has a secret will (that you admit he hasn't revealed) in which he really only desires to save some of us. Amazing! And you just happen to be on the winning team! *Doubly-Amazing!*

If you are really, really committed to double-predestination (like "7-Point Piper" is) you might say that God's reason for electing some to damnation is to enhance his glory to those he has mercy on. Now *THAT* is true evil. Hitler didn't have half the evil balls as the god who does THAT! And the people who would want to worship that god amaze me! "Hmm, how shall i show my love and mercy to my bride? Oh, i know, ill make some people just to destroy them! That'll make her really want me!"

Re: Your fixation with death

Im sorry to have to tell you this again, but spiritual death is a metaphor/analogy that is based on physical death. When Paul, or any other author, wants to communicate how utterly separated we are from God, he uses the very powerful and common experience of physical death to illustrate this truth. Adam and Eve, and every human since, have been separated from God spiritually as a result of sin. But don't forget that when Adam and Eve were prohibited from re-entering the garden, they were cut off from God the Source of Life and from the Tree of Life which meant they would PHYSICALLY die. So, the death spoke of by God in the garden was not ONLY spiritual. Neither physical nor spiritual death, however, alter the moral choice-making capacity of human beings. Or else God is severely mistaken when he tells Cain this the very next chapter no less!:

"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." - Gen 4.6-7

Please, please, please explain to me why God seems to forget here in this text that humanity is now totally depraved and is only capable of evil, all the time!! Please, please, please explain to me why God would taunt Cain by admonishing him to do something he is (in your view) incapable of doing!! When you can do that, i will accept your system :)

"That after Adam and Eve's fall all of the thoughts of man's heart were continually evil"

I love it when determinists use this verse to proof-text Total Depravity. It perfectly illustrates how utterly ridiculous this doctrine is. On the one hand, determinist say that this verse teaches T.D., but no one really believes this! No one in their right mind believes that a mother who looks at her children with love has only evil in her heart. No one truly believes that people never make any good choices. No one truly believes the person who gives a starving person food has only evil in their hearts. Its nonsense!

So, then, when you confront a Calvinist on this point (which i have several times, and they all admit that the implication is absurd) they then change their story and say: "Total Depravity doesnt meant that people cant do good things or think good thoughts, it simply means that sin has pervaded every aspect of our lives." Which renders the passage referred to utterly useless in supporting this doctrine.

Don't believe me? Read Erickson's section on Total Depravity in "Christian Theology" (a required textbook in almost every major evangelical seminary in America). Its right there. He's a Calvinist and believes in Total Depravity and this is what he says about it:

"We do not mean by total depravity that the unregenerate person is totally insensitive in matters of conscience, of right or wrong. ... Further, total depravity does not mean that the sinful person is as sinful as possible. No one continuously does only evil and in the most wicked fashion possible. There are genuinely altruistic unregenerate persons, who show kindness, generosity, and love others, who are good, devoted spouses and parents" (pp.644-645)

Re: the "So-wonderful" argument

Ya, ive heard this one before too. Jesus is such a wonderful bridegroom that no one can resist him. But wait, hold up, i think i remember reading about this nation of people (hundreds of thousands, possibly millions even) who God specifically revealed himself to in a special way, protected, fed, led, rescued, etc. (They were in covenant with each other) ...and i think i remember him calling them a whore because of how often they *Rejected* him in favor of false gods ...often! Oh wait, thats like 60% of the bible!!

Dude, seriously, Irresistible Grace is laughable. Try telling Hosea that Israel couldnt resist God! Or Jeremiah, or Isaiah, or any of the prophets! LOL

Re: The decision God ordains then regrets

You might already be able to tell this, but ive been through this discussion a good number times before. So, i tend to notice when someone changes their position, even slightly. On this one, youve moved your position from "God has ordained prayer as a means to accomplishing His will... as well as our choices." to "It is very easy even for us to regret things that we know to be inevitable. God knew that the children of Israel would reject Him and ask for a king to rule over them and told Samuel beforehand..." The latter position is called "Simple Foreknowledge." The former position is called "Casual Determination." See, its easy to say you regret something that "was inevitable" or even that you could "foresee." But it is impossible for an all-good God to "ordain" Saul's sin and then say he regrets making him king. So, which is it? Does God include our choices in his ordination of the future, or does he merely foresee the future with no determining culpability? Whichever you choose, be consistent. Oh, and be aware the Simple Foreknowledge position is logically flawed.

Re: Philippians 2:12-13

You are chasing windmills with this reference. Why would i argue that God is not "at work" in the believer's will?? Of course he is!! Where does the text say that God forces anyone to do anything? Nowhere. Do Christians still sin? Yes. Is sin against God's will? Yes. So, apparently even Christians still have free will.

"(you describe my position incorrectly)"

Please show me where i have mischaracterized you position. You believe that everyone is dead because of Adams sin, and that this is of no choice of our own. You believe that Adam's choice was our choice because we were "in Adam." This is precisely what you have said and continue to say:

"In Adam all died. Being dead in his trespasses and sins Pharaoh could not choose to not harden his heart. God could choose to have mercy on pharaoh so that pharoah could choose right (Rom 9:14-18). We all chose already in Adam and chose disobedience and in that disobedience we all died. When God told Adam and Eve that in the day they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they would surely die... that happened and they died that day and so did we. (Rom 5:18, 1 Cor 15:22)."

Now you say this:

"Scripture is clear that all have sinned and death reigns through sin and that not all will be saved."

Which is precisely why i said you have a conundrum to face. I didn't take anything out of context. Verses 15-17 is the conclusion of the entire thought (v.12-21). Paul says: "JUST AS" or "EXACTLY AS" or "IN THE SAME WAY" (v.18a) Adam's sin dooms "ALL MEN" (the part you like so much), "SO ALSO" (v.18b) Jesus' victory justifies "ALL MEN."

You have shot yourself in the foot. The universal condemnation this verse speaks of fits your system, but by your own admission, "scripture is clear ...that not all will be saved." So, either Paul/scripture/Holy Spirit are wrong, or your system is wrong. And the verse that proves your system wrong is in the same contextual thought: verse 17, "...those who receive..." This is why we know that Paul is not arguing for Universalism. The application of God's free gift of eternal life is contingent upon its receipt! Those who receive it make up the "many" Paul speaks of. You simply can't escape it hermeneutically. Viewed through your system's lens, this thought teaches Universalism, which is obviously refuted throughout the rest of the N.T. It is only when the freedom to accept or reject God's gift is understood, does the scripture find its proper place in the bible's salvific motif.

See Part 2 below:

T. C. said...

Part 2:

Re: Romans 9 (seriously?)

Wow, good ol' Romans 9---the quintessential Calvinist proof-text :) You not only try to use it as a defense for your position (which is a classic mistake), but you think that my debunking of your deterministic system somehow parallels Paul's thought there. It doesnt. A good exegete looks at the question Paul is addressing. In this case, the question is definitively not: How is a person saved? Rather, the question is: What about Israel? (v.1-5) which he answers in summary in verses 6-8, then expounds upon throughout the rest of 9, 10, and 11. And if the obvious fact that Paul here speaks of Israel (corporate) and not the salvation of any individual doesn't utterly destroy your argument, what does is that the Potter analogy that Paul here employs is directly linked to Jeremiah's vision which is thoroughly infused with God's responsiveness to the choices made by free agents.

Good exegesis is not driven by the presuppositions one seeks to uphold by leading it where it never intended to go. Using Romans 9 to support a deterministic view of salvation is a classic example of this. Paul here never envisioned his words being used to support TULIP, his concern was fleshing out the pressing theological issue of his day: the Jew/Gentile/Church relationship. Please tell me your presuppositions have not so blinded you to the fact that Paul did have the same agenda as Piper! Please tell me you dont think Paul was trying to argue against human responsibility! If you are that blinded by Calvinist propaganda, we have little more to discuss, because what youre doing is most certainly not exegesis, its eisogesis.

Re: John's Gospel

Calvinists love John's gospel because of the references to "those the Father gives me." They think these are "nail-in-the-coffin" type of texts. What i find very amusing is that it is in this same text we find Jesus using the most damaging language possible to the determinist's case.

"If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." - John 7:17

Tell me, if God's will is irresistible, and men cannot chose to do it, why didn't Jesus get the memo? Here he clearly says that God's will *Must* be chosen to become his disciple! Or if you prefer, the other contemporary english renderings of the text use the word "are willing to" or "willingly." Jesus believes the human will is more free than you. I will side with Jesus.

Here's a question for you/the theological determinist position:

You obviously believe, as do i, that God is all-good. Scripture teaches this unequivocally: "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." (I Jn 1.5) Yet you claim that the free choices of angelic and human beings (including sin) are a part of God's secret "Decreed Will." (The one that only Calvinists have received special knowledge of the Gnostics) Tell me, how does God's "decreeing" of sin and evil not violate his own all-good nature? Can an all-good God act in an evil way if his acting is always out of his nature?

Tell me this also: If i love a woman and want her to love me back, how will raping her help me to achieve my goal? If i love a woman and want her to love me back, will putting a gun to her head and telling her that if she does not love me i will kill her help me to achieve my goal?

~T. C.

T. C. said...

Ironic Edit:

I wrote "Casual Determination" instead of "Causal Determination" LOL

(Isn't the term "Casual Determination" hilarious in this context!?)


Tim said...

haha... casual determination. Oh TC. Yeah. We can publish a book. It will be a both sides of the argument book. ha. And here we go:

"Re: the secret knowledge of determinists"

There is no secret knowledge of determinists. There is the secret knowledge of God which belongs to God. I do not side-step all of the revealed will of God, it is you who side-steps all of the secret will of God (as shown in scripture). I fully recognize and affirm that there are those whom God chooses to have mercy on who will not understand His purposes in choosing them and they would even think they had the ability to choose Him. There are countless people who have faith in Christ and have been redeemed by His blood who do not understand all of the revealed will of God, not to mention anything concerning His decreed will (which is perfectly fine that they do not).

I personally do not care for the way you make light of being on the "winning team". I first of all do not claim to be on a different team than you and see you as a brother in Christ and God's elect. I am humbled by God's choosing me. In realizing it, it brings me to tears and praise... not pride.

"Re: Your fixation with death"

I have no fixation with death. I am thankful that despite me being a wretched man, sold under sin, that God, through Jesus Christ our Lord has satisfied Himself and delivered me from this body of death.

You are incorrect when you say "spiritual death is a metaphor/analogy that is based on physical death." Physical death is a reality based upon the reality of spiritual death. This is a key point in our differences. God is not mistaken when He tells Cain to do what is right in Gen 4:6-7 while Cain has the inability to do it apart from God's mercy. God shows that man cannot work the righteousness of God. Man is not God and cannot do what God Himself requires. Let me ask you... if God warned you to do what is right... would you do it? So notice He tells Cain and Cain disobeys. If God warned you that you were about to deny His name would you still do it? Jesus warned Peter and Peter told Jesus he would die for Him... but he still chose to deny Jesus. Through God's revealed will sin becomes exceedingly sinful.

With regard to the thoughts of man's heart being continually evil after the fall. I most certainly believe it. You say "no one in their right mind believes that a mother who looks at her children has only evil in her heart." The righteousness of man does not equate to the righteousness of God. If man sins in one point then he is guilty of all. Earlier you mentioned that the doctrine of God's sovereignty over choosing whom He will save "offends the God-given consciences of so many Christians and non-Christians alike". Do you not see the terrible problem with that statement. The same "Spirit filled Christians you refer to whose consciences are offended by this doctrine fail to be offended when attending a movie and hearing the name of their Savior used profanely and not regarded as holy. The same Christians and non-Christians you refer to have their consciences seared and desensitized to the truth of God day in and day out.

You point to people whom you have discussed with and read and what they say therefore makes points invalid or valid. I do not affirm what people you have argued with say or what Piper or Calvin says. You use this to avoid discussion of the points I have presented and fail to deal with them.

"Re: the 'So-wonderful' argument"

You mischaracterize this position. Here is how you mischaracterize it. I never said that Jesus is such wonderful bridegroom that no one can resist Him. I said that whomever He chooses as His bride will not resist Him. They are not the same thing. Further you speak of the children of Israel which further validates my point. God's people whom He had chosen were incapable of following His commands. He told Moses beforehand, before Moses died, that they would not. (Deut 31:14-29) He gave them up just like He does all who follow the dictates of their own hearts . Read Acts 7:42-53. God committed them to disobedience (Rom 11:30-32) that He might have mercy on all. He shows His wisdom in having mercy on individuals that make up His body, His bride and one day He will show mercy on the nation of Israel and save them, His chosen people. Until then He has made us a people who were not His people. You sidestep the conversion of Paul. God's saved Paul the same way He saved you in that He determined that you would know him. He may not have blinded you on the road to damascus but instead placed you under parents He chose or near a friend He chose or any other number of ways.

"Re: The decision God ordains then regrets"

I have not changed my position and I see the difference between simple foreknowledge and causal determination. For you to say that God is unable to grieve over what He ordains only shows that you do not understand... that does not change it's truth. So for example: Satan comes before God to ask if God will inflict Job. Notice how Satan told God to inflict the pain. God allows and ordains Satan to do it. Your view says that God cannot grieve over the foolishness that was spewed out. Sin itself grieves God and though He may ordain it unto His purposes it doesn't mean that He is not saddened by it. So as He ordains Satan to allow people to sin in stealing Job's flock, it does not make God evil and He grieves over it and triumphs over it by His choosing to intervene. He controls the extent to which it can be carried out as well. In the end, as Job was upset because He knew that God was ultimately responsible for all that had befallen him (and God did not argue with him about that), God said "Would you condemn Me that you may be justified". Job kept affirming his own "good choices". God in essence told Job that God can do whatever God wants in allowing evil to come upon man... and in this case showed mercy to Job and bound Job in love to Himself in even greater measure in Job's life (God had already had mercy on Job and Job knew it and would not deny God).

Re: "(you describe my position incorrectly)"

You described my position as if, from us being dead in Adam as Romans 5:12-21 talks about, I must also say that everyone is saved. That is wrong for several reasons: A) The verses in Rom 5:12-21 never say that all will be saved. It says "the free gift came to all men", "many will be made righteous" ,"resulting in the justification of life". So first it is easy to see that the passage itself never says all will receive the free gift or all will be made righteous... there is no conundrum within the passage itself. B) This passage as with all of scripture must be taken in the light of all of scripture which clearly states all will not be saved. Other scripture also says that we are "sold under sin", that we are "dead in our trespasses and sins", that "Scripture has confined all under sin". Dead in sins not as an analogy but a reality for sins brings death. So this position is also defended by the rest of scripture not only this passage. There is no conundrum as you see it. I completely agree that the justification spoken of in this passage is contingent upon its receipt and God's mercy in choosing.

"Re: Romans 9 (seriously?)"

You are absolutely right in that Romans 9 deals with Israel. You are wrong in that you say it does not speak to salvation. It is speaking about Israel's rejection and the salvation of those whom God has called (not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles) Romans 9:23-24. You ignore this in the passage. The obvious difference is clear. As you state, God chose corporate Israel and rejected them though not finally. Individually, not all Israel are Israel (spiritually). Paul switches from speaking of the flesh to the spirit and says "those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed." What promise? Or better yet what promises? The promises made to the fathers (Romans 15:8) and all these promises are Yes and Amen in Jesus Christ. Further you ignore what God says about Jacob and Esau and how Paul affirms God's justice despite His rejection of His chosen nation (according to the flesh, not the spirit... for the flesh profits nothing). As I mentioned earlier God gave up His people whom He had chosen according to the flesh (Acts 7:42). God committed them to disobedience that He might have mercy on both Jew and Gentile.

The potter analogy is directly linked to Jeremiah. Paul expounded on it even further as he had the revelation of God. He is expounding on what is behind the choices of Israel. You reject his statement. I completely agree that Paul never intended to support TULIP. I do not affirm TULIP, Calvin, Piper, Boyd, Erickson. Paul does not argue against human responsibility that is the whole point of his question in verse 19. That is why he is questioning it. He is comparing Israel's rejection and the church's acceptance in Romans 9-11.

I completely affirm, with Jesus, that man must choose to do God's will. What you do not affirm with Jesus is that "nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matt 11:27) and "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt 13:11). Why was it not given to them? Why did Jesus speak in parables? So that "Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive..." Who do you say that Jesus is? Is He the Christ the Son of the Living God? Does flesh and blood reveal that to you or our Father who is in heaven?

To answer your questions:

First I will answer your second question which was: "If I love a woman and want her to love me back, will putting a gun to her head and telling her that if she doesn't love me I will kill her help me to achieve my goal?" Your premise is wrong. Here is why: I do not claim to know God's ultimate goal but God's ultimate goal is not your love. He doesn't need your love. He is desirous first and foremost of His own Name and Word. He is described in scripture as the Fountain of Living Waters. He spills out and in mercy saves those who do not deserve to be saved in order to show Himself glorious. Those He saves, previously had hewn out for themselves broken cisterns which hold no water. As I said earlier, the apostle Paul being the prime example... no one he rescues with His kindness and mercy would ever understand your example of a gun to the head. It is absurd to view it in that way. Paul would think you were absurd for viewing God blinding him as God dragging Paul kicking and screaming into the kingdom. If God "puts a gun" to someone's head in order to save them from pulling the trigger themselves then I pray that He continues and I thank Him that He does.

Now to answer your first question. There are many examples. First, in the case of Job. Satan who ( I believe in his free will) sinned against God and took other fallen angels with him, must come before God and request that God would stretch out His hand against Job. It is clear that Satan's will is now limited by what God allows him to do. God does not allow Satan to kill Job. God ordains Job's suffering and Job realizes that God allowed it and can stop it. God is not evil for allowing Satan to carry out evil. Evil not only has a final judgement but is also a judgement in and of itself. Evil is foolishness and brings destruction.

For another example, we see how Jesus appointed or chose the twelve (knowing Judas was a "devil"). Satan tried to stop Jesus from going to the cross all along the way. Satan asked for Peter that he might sift Peter. When Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to the suffer, Jesus replied "Get behind Me Satan..." God ordained that Satan would enter Judas and "sell" Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. God is not evil for allowing and ordaining Satan to carry out evil. Also, Jesus tells Peter that He has prayed for Peter and when Peter returns (speaking that he would fall) to strengthen the brethren.

Another example. Ahab wanted to join forces with Jehoshaphat to go to war. When the false prophets were consulted they all said God would deliver. When Micaiah the prophet of the Lord spoke to Ahab, he told Ahab that the Lord had ordained and commissioned a lying spirit in the mouth of all of Ahab's prophets. God is not evil for allowing an evil spirit to be a lying spirit in the mouths of Ahab's prophets. 2 Chronicles 18.

Another example is when God moved David to number Israel. I mean Satan moved David to number Israel? I mean which is it? It's both. God ordained Satan to move David to number Israel and God judged the sin which He allowed. God is not evil for allowing Satan to be evil and work under a limited will in order to accomplish God's greater purposes.

There are many more examples... but I will stop here to say: Satan and angelic beings are not just out there exercising free will. They may have had it as man once did... but no longer. In fact we know from scripture that many fallen angels are in hell being held in reserve for final judgement (2 Peter 2:4). Also, those who are not fallen, are bound to do the will of God. "are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve those who would inherit salvation". I believe God is using the church to show His manifold wisdom to the "principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Eph 3:10). So God is using man who is made a little lower than the angels, to show Satan the futileness of his own pride. I do not claim to know all of God's purposes I just see this as one of His purposes as revealed in scripture.

We are not the center of God's universe, God is.

TDags said...

Hah! So this is where you two were hiding! Anyway - please keep up the dialogue. I'm an older Christian, having grown up in a Christian (conservative Baptist) home but have great parents who were always challenging me while at the same time holding the line on the Word of God. But my environment (early 70's Christianity) wasn't conducive to a lot of this discussion. I love how your generation challenges "foundations" - so don't think this is just for yourselves. You're helping an "old man" stay in the game.

I have no thoughts to add yet. I think I have to reread the thread of comments again. And don't discount yourselves - it would make a good book.

dave said...
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dave said...

one more thing...


if satan, demons and humans are not, as you say, excercising free will, why are there millions killed by way of genocide, hatred, racism or greed?

if there is no free will among all of these evil agents, then there should ONLY be good in this world. if EVEYRYTHING is ordained by God, and there is no genuine, free agent opposition to God's will, then everything should be perfect, should it not?

in my humble opinion, a god who does not give choice is coercive, unloving, unjust and unmerciful. these are not attibutes of our Father.

these are very simplistic reasons for not believing in determinism, but i believe them to be valid and unanswered by determinst logic.

dave said...

so, i've been thinking a lot about this since i posted my comment.

i can never presume to understand how God works in this world, but i do know a few things about God that have led me to believe God continues to give choice to us all today:

God does not desire that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

the simple fact that this is a desire of God's would insinuate that there is something yet to be fulfilled. God hopes for something. the end result of that desire is contingent upon us and our decision to repent or not. right?

Tim said...

Thanks TDags!

Hey Dave,
To your first comment I hope you don't mind that I point you to my previous response about evil. I know it is a pain to read through all of it, but I did address it. If you still don't see what I believe scripture says on it then I don't mind clarifying further at all.

To your second comment. I think the verse you refer to is wonderful. In fact it is a cornerstone verse in this topic that doesn't solve the problem to our minds, it is the verse that opens up the problem. It is one of the first verses I thought of when challenging my assumptions. You are right in that, the verse "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" demands that God is limiting His will to something else. It is to another will.. because He could do it if He wanted right? I mean, He could will everyone to be saved and they all would be saved... but He doesn't.

That really is all you can start with. I used to approach that verse with the assumption that He was limiting His will and desire for everyone to be saved to my free will to choose... that only makes sense doesn't it? That is imposing on the text the meaning I wanted to see. So looking outside this text to see what God was limiting His will to... I realized He was limiting His "will" to His own will. That may sound crazy but I really believe that is what scripture teaches. Let me explain.

As has already been mentioned in previous posts, God ordained the evil that would come upon Job and God hates evil. God is not desirous that evil and Satan should exist but He allows it to be for His greater purposes and will. So we see pictures of God's desire and His decree. He is able to accomplish His desire, but He does not initially because He has greater purposes which He has decreed. So God is desirous that all should be saved but He has not decreed it thus to accomplish His greater purposes.

Also, as we have all agreed here that God ordained the crucifixion of His Son Jesus and that involved much sin, sin which God "allowed" and was contrary to His desirous will. So when interpreting this passage, it is critical to differentiate between God's desirous, revealed will and His sovereign, decreed will.

dave said...
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dave said...

sorry about the first comment tim...i didn't read the entirety of yours and tc's comments. my bad.

i appreciate where you have come as a result of study. it is obvious that i have come to a different conclusion concerning the relationship between God will and the will of creation, but as you put very nicely, we are all brothers in Christ striving to understand how to best serve God in this messed up world. that's what matters most.

Tim said...

"we are all brothers in Christ striving to understand how to best serve God in this messed up world. that's what matters most."

Amen Dave, Amen.

T. C. said...


I wrote a two-page response to your post including several reasons why Job absolutely does not support your deterministic interpretation... but since i was the one who suggested we limit the scope of our discussion to use our time most efficiently, i guess i will go first. I will limit my response to just one question, for now:

Regarding the passage in Romans 5, you said this:

"I completely agree that the justification spoken of in this passage is contingent upon its receipt and God's mercy in choosing."

What im interested in is the "its receipt" part. See, this does not fit with the presentation of your position thus far. You have said things like "dead men dont choose" and "God chooses whom he will have mercy on." So, what i want to know is: What do you mean by "receipt?"

Simple question. If you didn't mean to write that and want to take it back, thats fine too. But if it was not a mistake, please explain.

~T. C.

T. C. said...

Tim. Where'd you go?

Tim said...

Hey T.C.

Sorry, I was away working for a while.

Yeah, I meant exactly what I said and it does fit with my position. Here is one of the paragraphs form earlier where I addressed it further:

--I completely affirm, with Jesus, that man must choose to do God's will. What you do not affirm with Jesus is that "nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matt 11:27) and "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt 13:11). Why was it not given to them? Why did Jesus speak in parables? So that "Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive..." Who do you say that Jesus is? Is He the Christ the Son of the Living God? Does flesh and blood reveal that to you or our Father who is in heaven?--

We have to choose to believe and we have to receive the gift of God's grace in Jesus and we are unable to do that unless God has mercy on us and wills us or ordains us or allows us or chooses us to choose and believe.

T. C. said...

If your position is consistent, please explain how this makes sense. First you say "dead men don't choose" / they are incapable of choosing God's will (i.e. total depravity), then you say the same "dead men" not only *can* choose but "must" choose to do God's will/accept the gospel. Furthermore, you toss "irresistible grace" out the window. If the "dead men" "must" accept the gospel then they also have the power to reject the gospel and "irresistible grace" is rendered null and void.

Also, the verses you reference do not necessitate your interpretation. They are, again, stripped of their context and interpreted with your deterministic presuppositions.

Re: Matt 11.27

No one knows the Father except the Son because the Father and Son are one. Jesus, being the image of the invisible God, reveals the Father to whoever he encounters. He is the Word of God, walking, talking, miracle-working revelation. His revelation of the Father does not logically necessitate your mystical, "decree" of double-predestination. Jesus' miracles, his love, his grace, and his self-sacrifice reveal the Father. He said "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."

Re: Matt 13.11

You are not performing good hermeneutics on this verse at all. What is the context? Who is Jesus speaking to? The very context of the verse is a parable explaining the process by which the word of God produces justification, which Jesus himself tells, and the parable DOES NOT describe a mystical, eternal, decree. It describes the Sower (God) spreading the seed (the Word of God) on all types of soils (heart-conditions), so were receptive because their hearts were prepared. Others were not receptive because their hearts were unprepared.

Nowhere in these verses are any needful grounds for your interpretation.

Tim said...


I am not sure how you have missed it. I have looked over the comments and I have stated that dead men cannot choose the will of God, dead men cannot work the righteousness of God, and they are unable to please God. But they must choose, they must believe... there is a standard of righteous obedience to God that men must meet... and that belief or choice is the result of God having mercy on an individual and choosing them to know Him. They must be made alive. They must born again by the Spirit of God which happens as a result of God pursuing individuals in His mercy and revealing His Son to them... opening their understanding and their "eyes" so that the CAN see and choose.

If you are God's child do you think you can do whatever you want with no consequence? As a perfect Father, He disciplines and chastens every son of His. If you turn away He will punish and if He does not punish then you are not His. I say that for the purpose of saying that we did not choose God but He chose us and brought us forth. We have a will and a moral resposibility, but it is not the self-determining will that mankind presupposes... as mankind thinks he has no "cause" and therefore must remain autonomous. We have clearly seen in all the revelation of scripture what mankind and angelic beings do with their will apart from God. It is only evil. It can and will never please God. The only good that can ever come must be at the reliance on the will of God, which is perfect and good.

I have not stripped either passage of there respective contexts. In fact you approach them with your lens of universal reason. You said that "Jesus, being the image of the invisible God, reveals the Father to whoever he encounters." That is correct except that you fail to realize that to many that He encountered, they just thought He was a good prophet or teacher because He did not will that they should know His true identity.

I also find it strange how poor of a hermeneutical interpretation you bring to Matt 13:11. That is just the point... who is He talking to? What is the context? Well? You didn't say. He was speaking to the crowds the parable of the sower, and then when His disciples privately asked Him why He spoke in parables, Jesus said "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given". And even in the context you can see that God presents the word, satan steals it, men desert it... but the good ground yields abundantly. Who prepares the good ground? It is not flesh and blood who revealed that Jesus is the Christ to Peter and it is not flesh and blood who reveals it to us today.

Also, in the context of Matt 11:27, Jesus states if the works done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom that they would have repented. That is because He knows exactly the mercy needed for them to repent. He knew the mercy needed for Nineveh to repent. He knows exactly the mercy needed for Tyre and Sidon to repent. That is the context of Matt 11:25-27.