92 comments on “Clark & Calvin on Determinism & Responsibility

  1. I won’t address the problems with determinism here, since as you’ve noted, we’ve already had this conversation before. I had hoped you might make a post regarding Scripturalism and why it ought to be the Christian’s starting point. That way, I could offer my thoughts on an alternative without continuing to comment on a the freewill debate.

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  2. Glad to see you around, Clifton! It’s not fair to assert that there are “problems with determinism here,” without pointing out what those problems are. Thanks for the post suggestion though, perhaps I will discuss Scripturalism soon.

    Not to be overly picky, but Scripturalism is not the Christian’s starting point; Scripture, God’s Word, is. God’s Word is the Christian’s starting point simply because nothing can be more foundational or authoritative than a word from God. For immediate further information, check out The Trinity Foundation. The site offers tons of articles on many subjects. I also recommend the following books, available at the same site:
    God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, by Gordon H. Clark
    Logic, by Gordon H. Clark
    The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, by Gordon H. Clark
    Predestination, by Gordon H. Clark
    Religion, Reason, and Revelation, by Gordon H. Clark
    The Scripturalism of Gordon H. Clark, by W. Gary Crampton
    Thales to Dewey: A History of Philosophy, by Gordon H. Clark
    What is Saving Faith?, by Gordon H. Clark

    From our interactions, I think that you, Clifton, as a thinker, will enjoy reading and interacting with these books, even if you completely disagree. I have yet to read a more concise, clear writer than Clark. If I had to reduce the list to just one, I suppose I’d go with Crampton’s introduction, in the hopes that it might lead you to read Religion, Reason, and Revelation.

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  3. The problems with determinism revolve around difficulty in reconciling divine causation and human responsibility. You correctly noted one of my arguments, that “holding man responsible for predetermined sinful actions is unjust”. I had also mentioned that man’s suffering is gratuitous in nature, since God could have created humans who only obey His commands and do not receive punishment for sin.

    These problems were considered irrelevant, however, because they are not rooted in Scripture, you say. It is somehow understood that this reasoning is purely secular, and thus deserves no attention. Even Gordon Clark reflects this attitude in your first reading recommendation to me, “God and Evil: The Problem Solved”. He writes:

    “Instead of recognizing God as sovereign in morals, they want to subject him to some independent, superior, ethical law-a law that satisfies their sinful opinions of what is right and wrong.”

    This is quite different from what I mean to say. I mean to say that God neither operates over morals, nor that He is subject to some independent standard, but that His very nature is the standard. I reject the notion that God’s will determines right and wrong, and insist that His nature supplies it. But we must have some knowledge of what constitutes His moral nature. Simply saying “It is what it is” or “He wills what He wills” is uninformative. On such a view, we have no understanding of what “good” is. If however, we understand “good” as His moral ontology, rather than a definition for good, we may construct a meaningful picture of how God issues commands. And based upon that meaningful understanding of God’s nature, one may conclude that He could not hold persons accountable for actions that He has determined. This is not mere secular reasoning; it is the application of God’s nature and will to our responsibilities, with both God’s nature and our responsibilities being clearly taught in Scripture.

    This probably has not clarified much, except that I possess a copy of Clark’s book. In looking at another of your suggested sources, I found that when Scripturalism was criticized on trinityfoundation.org, Clark made a statement which indicates what I feel is a true proper starting point:

    “Confidence in Scripture is the result of the inward working of the Holy Ghost.”

    The Spirit’s witness, I think, is our true means of knowing Christianity to be true. Certainly He moves through the preaching of the gospel, and on His witness alone one may not be prepared to defend the faith exhaustively, leaving objections unanswered. But these problems do nothing to refute the confidence one may have in His testimony. I’m surprised Clark did not realize this himself.

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  4. Clifton, thanks for commenting. Glad to see you picked up a copy of God & Evil!

    In response to your first 3 paragraphs, I would say that Clark clearly shows that divine causation & human responsibility are completely compatible. Rather than “free will,” Clark argues that the basis for responsibility is knowledge. Is there a particular part or premise of Clark’s argument that you disagree with? That might help me see where you’re coming from.

    “I mean to say that God neither operates over morals, nor that He is subject to some independent standard, but that His very nature is the standard.”

    Ok, I think I agree here.

    “I reject the notion that God’s will determines right and wrong, and insist that His nature supplies it.”

    Here’s where you lost me. Isn’t will a property of nature? Even if not, I wouldn’t separate God’s will from His nature. He wills what is natural to Him; His will and nature are in perfect accord. Perhaps I have missed your point.

    “But we must have some knowledge of what constitutes His moral nature. Simply saying ‘It is what it is’ or ‘He wills what He wills’ is uninformative. On such a view, we have no understanding of what ‘good’ is.”

    I disagree. There is no principle, philosophy, or power higher than or equal to God. All of creation depends upon Him. There can be no system of morality apart from God. God’s actions are good. How do we know? Because God performs the actions. Not because some actions are inherently good, and God chooses to do them. Thus, our philosophy must define “good” by what God does, and what He commands.

    “If however, we understand “good” as His moral ontology, rather than a definition for good, we may construct a meaningful picture of how God issues commands.”

    Can you rephrase this? I do not understand what you mean.

    “And based upon that meaningful understanding of God’s nature, one may conclude that He could not hold persons accountable for actions that He has determined.”

    Perhaps this will make more sense after you explain the previous sentence, but for now, I’ll say that God certainly can (and does) hold persons accountable for actions that He has determined, because He is God, and therefore, for God to hold such persons accountable is perfectly just. It may not be just for you and I, but who are we to tell God what He may and may not justly do?

    I also do not understand your last bit concerning Clark’s comment on the witness of the Holy Spirit. Clark’s epistemology was such that he believed that all true knowledge (in the strict sense of the word) is a result of the Holy Spirit’s enlightening of our minds, and that, in this age, this is done through the use of Scripture. (This is not a statement of Clark’s argument, but merely his view. He supplies his argument in the books I mentioned above.)

    Thanks again for the interaction.

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  5. I’ll try to restate my points as concisely as possible:

    1. God’s nature is the basis for good and bad*
    2. God’s will is based upon His nature, and determines right and wrong.*
    3. God’s nature is good by necessity.
    4. The word “good” is not an invention of an Old Testament author. Rather it is a word already clear in meaning and application.
    5. Thus, to say that “God is good” is to say that His nature is compatible with what we understand good to mean. This is, after all, the word God chose to describe His nature in Scripture.
    6. Therefore we are within our rights to examine whether a theory of God’s providence, such as determinism, is compatible with our understanding of goodness.

    (Statements with * at the end are corrections.)

    Gordon Clark’s argument ultimately based human responsibility on (1) our knowledge and (2) Adam’s sin. But neither of these work since God ultimately determines both our knowlegde and Adam’s sin. Therefore, God cannot “justly reward or punish a person for his deeds”, since the person truly commits no deeds of his own; he merely functions as the instrument through which God acts.

    Regarding (1), I will grant that a person could be held accountable based upon knowledge rather than mere action. But it makes no sense to hold a person accountable for knowledge if you, the judge, determined all that they would know, and what they would do with the knowledge. On this view the Atheist who concludes that there is no God, does so because God determined that he would not have sufficient evidence to believe! William Lane Craig gives similar thought on reasonablefaith.org, Question #157. He writes:

    “The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control.”

    Regarding (2), if memory serves there is a bit of controversy over whether Adam’s choice was determined by God or not. If it is, then it is pointless to appeal to this answer in explaining how determinism renders humans responsible; it provides no more convincing argument than appealing to any other human event. If determinism does not hold in Adam’s case, this proves my point exactly, namely that Libertarian freedom is necessary in order to be held responsible!

    Finally, there is much agreement between Clark and I about the role of the Holy Spirit. Without His witness, we would not understand Scripture as God’s Word. What room then, is left for Scripture as the foundation for our epistemology?

    Hopefully I’ve clarified my statements. Thank you for you patience.

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  6. Clifton,

    I think you are defining responsibility differently than you should. Responsibility is simply the ability to be called to give a response or to give an answer or an account.

    Being accountable, answerable, or responsible are all the same thing. God counts sin to all men through Adam’s sin and through the implanting of knowledge, not because he needed to in order to be good, but because that is how he has decided to make all men under the curse of sin.

    Were cannot give an account to God that beats the system of rules He has established. We are responsible, accountable, answerable to Him under His law. I know you have denied this, but you really are trying to create a definition of “good” that is above God. The Bible is obviously deterministic/predestinarian.

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  7. David,

    Even if I grant your proposed definition of responsibility, it is a farce to say that human beings are responsible for their actions. Remember, determinism states that God wills literally everything that comes to pass. No creature can interfere with this process. Man is internally coerced to bring about the actions which God desires. God is ultimately responding to Himself through man as though he were an instrument. There is no true agency of man from which he may respond.
    The same can be said about Adam’s sin. It was not truly his sin, since the decision to eat the fruit was determined by God. In an ultimate sense, God had the fruit eaten, not Adam. Neither is man’s knowledge anything more than what God has decreed that the individual should know. God has determined that my knowledge should be such that I believe determinism to be false, and He has determined your knowledge such that you believe determinism is true. On such a view, one’s beliefs cannot be rationally affirmed.
    So my question is what exactly is God rewarding and punishing? It seems He is ultimately punishing instruments for doing precisely what He willed, and they had no sufficient agency to do otherwise. If that comports with any definition of “good” of which you are aware, I would like to know.
    Perhaps this view simply puts God below the standard of “good”.

    I remain unconvinced, but thank you for responding.

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  8. Clifton,

    1) God is all knowing

    2) Since God is All knowing, then God knows the end and the beginning of all things and all of the steps in between the beginning of everything and the ending of everything.

    3) If God knows the beginning of the life of every man, the end of the life of every man, and all of the steps in between the beginning and end of the life of every man, then men are not free to do other than that which God knows they will do.

    How can you disagree with this reasoning.

    4) Further, God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them.

    5) God did not have any external influences on Him when He chose how to create the world and all of its inhabitants.

    6) Since God knew all things when He created the heavens and the earth, therefore He chose the end and the course of all things just as He obviously chose the beginning.

    The Lion of Judah has determined the course of history from beginning to end down to the smallest detail. Every falling sparrow and each growing hair is a part of the plan of God for His Glory. Soli Deo Gloria

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  9. Clifton, thank you for your patience. I have had very little time to respond lately, as my wife and I have recently been working out the details of moving. Also, it is uncertain as to whether or not we will have internet access in our new place, so beginning soon, my replies may be very infrequent. I still welcome your ongoing comments and conversation, however!

    I think I’m understanding you a bit better. I still disagree 😉 but perhaps this will keep us from talking past each other. When I have argued that we must define “good” from the Bible, I didn’t mean the type of definition of good such as is found in a dictionary, as “morally correct” or something like that. Everyone understands what good, as a concept, means.

    When I said we must derive our definition of “good” from Scripture alone, I meant that, while we may understand what “good” means, this does not tell us which actions are “good” and which are “evil.” For example, cannibalism. Is this act good or bad? Our culture tells us that it’s bad, but some cultures regard the practice as normal.

    A Scripturalist (and other Christians, but not all, unfortunately) is able to assert that cannibalism is bad because it violates the commands of God as revealed in Scripture. Thus, cannibalism is opposed to God (and therefore opposed to good). Yet cannibalism is forbidden by God, not because it is inherently bad, but because God chose to forbid it. Thus the act is considered evil, because God has forbidden it.

    So it is with all acts. To determine if an act (whether it be eating pork, killing a man, homosexual relationships, wearing a hat, gardening, etc.) is good or evil, we must consult God’s Word. Now, the issue at hand is the following situation: Almighty God, holding men responsible for actions that He has predetermined. Is this act good or bad? The only way for us to find out is to consult Scripture. We cannot appeal to a general consensus of men’s idea of what constitutes right and wrong, because men’s ideas often conflict (cannibalism, abortion, homosexuality, incest, theft, etc.).

    If someone proposes that God does indeed hold men responsible for acts that He Himself has predetermined, and a second person objects “That’s just wrong! God wouldn’t do that!”, then that second person must demonstrate why it would be morally wrong for Almighty God to do such a thing.

    “Gordon Clark’s argument ultimately based human responsibility on (1) our knowledge and (2) Adam’s sin. But neither of these work since God ultimately determines both our knowlegde and Adam’s sin. Therefore, God cannot “justly reward or punish a person for his deeds”, since the person truly commits no deeds of his own; he merely functions as the instrument through which God acts.”

    Did you get a chance to read “Determinism and Responsibility”? Clark definitely believed that people are voluntary agents, even though their actions are predetermined. In fact, Clark deals with the argument that says that acts must be “free”/undetermined in order to be voluntary. That argument is actually dealt with in some quotes that I recently posted from Calvin and Gill. Clark does not ignore this issue, so to treat his view as positing that no “person truly commits… deeds of his own” is just a straw man.

    William Lane Craig may experience vertigo at the thought of his own thoughts being predetermined, but his confusion is not reason to reject this biblical truth (See Proverbs 21:1, which states that God determines the direction of the heart, in connection with Proverbs 23:7, which shows that the heart is the seat of thoughts.). But this is getting slightly off topic (the logical compatibility of God’s meticulous sovereignty and man’s responsibility for sin).

    I would argue that Adam’s sin, like all other events, was determined by God.

    “Without [the Holy Spirit’s] witness, we would not understand Scripture as God’s Word. What room then, is left for Scripture as the foundation for our epistemology?”

    Scripture must be our starting point. How else can you describe the operations of the Holy Spirit? Our knowledge of the Holy Spirit comes from His causing us to believe the propositions revealed in Scripture. One cannot begin with the Holy Spirit, then deduce Scripture, for one must begin with Scripture in order to first understand the Holy Spirit

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  10. David,

    Thank you for responding again. I must express concern, however, that it appears you are talking past my arguments rather than dealing with them. It would be best to end the conversation if this deliberately continues. (I hope not to be doing the same.) In spite of this, you have raised some very good objections which force me to bare my burden of proof. The statements you’ve made took little space, but it will require a great deal of space on my part to deal with them. Let me note that even if your objections to libertarian freedom are correct, this does not bolster determinism’s case but makes both positions untenable.

    ” If God knows the beginning of the life of every man, the end of the life of every man, and all of the steps in between the beginning and end of the life of every man, then men are not free to do other than that which God knows they will do.”

    Indeed men are not free to do other than that which God knows they will do. However, this does not imply causal determination. To use an illustration, if I observe you sit in a chair, I know the proposition “David is sitting in a chair” to be true. I did not cause you to sit in the chair though. Thus one’s knowledge of a proposition does not determine the action; it is entirely coherent to suggest the person determines his or her actions with no interference from the observer. On the libertarian model, God is the observer of human actions. You may want to reply “But we are still not free to do otherwise since God knows I will sit in the chair!” In a literal sense, this is correct, but the issue at hand is ultimately whether man’s actions are causally determined or not.

    “Since God knew all things when He created the heavens and the earth, therefore He chose the end and the course of all things just as He obviously chose the beginning.”

    This appears to be the problem of divine providence. This is perhaps the one and only problem the traditional Arminian position cannot solve. It states that since God’s knowledge is perfect, whatever He knows will come to pass. Thus, God must determine the outcome logically prior to knowing it.

    I have no set resolution to this problem; I could adopt either Molinism or the Conditional Will-Actual Foreknowledge model, CW-AF for short. Far more space has been committed to articulating either view than is reasonable to do here, so I will summarize the main points.

    Molinism states that God has Middle Knowledge, knowledge of what free agents would do under a given circumstance. This knowledge falls between God’s natural knowledge (knowledge of all logical necessities and possibilities) and God’s free knowledge (knowledge of contingent facts). Based upon God’s Middle Knowledge, He actualizes a “possible world”. Not to be confused with another planet, a possible world is a way the universe and creatures within it might have been. There is a possible world, for instance, in which we do not have this conversation, but there is no possible world in which God does not exist. So God chose to actualize this possible world because it is most compatible with His plan.

    The CW-AF model states the following:

    (1) God knows all possibilities
    (2) God formulates potential divine reactions to each of these possibilities
    (3) Through timeless knowledge (or perhaps temporal foreknowledge) God directly knows which possibilities in fact actualize throughout time
    (4) In light of his knowledge of (2) and (3), God also decides and knows which responses He makes throughout all times.

    Obviously, any model involving libertarian freedom has God conditioned by creatures, but this is a self-imposed limitation. One might also contend that either view is highly philosophical and not derived from Scripture, and therefore ought to be immediately rejected. Several things may be said in response. First, this conversation is a result of tensions in biblical interpretations and thus ultimately has a proper understanding of God’s Word as the goal. Second, for Molinism in particular, a unique sort of biblical evidence may be proposed: knowledge of counterfactuals. Counterfactuals are things which could have happened but did not. For example, in, 2 Kings 13:19, Elisha tells the king that had he struck the ground with arrows five or six times, he would have destroyed Aram. Third and last, determinism is itself a philosophical position, one typically advocated by Naturalists such as Daniel Dennett. They have no burden of reconciling this with perfect judgment however.

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  11. Clifton I agree that they talked past your arguments. I have had quite a bit of experience with Perry Robinson the Eastern Orthodox Apologist and I am very familiar with all this so here I go, sorry about the length but I did not want to leave a stone unturned:

    Clifton says,

    “Man is internally coerced to bring about the actions which God desires.”

    >>This is wrong. I reject it. God causes men to do what they do but when a man sins God determines it indirectly by removing his common gracious influence from men not by actively coercing them.

    “On such a view, one’s beliefs cannot be rationally affirmed.”

    >>We need no such affirmation. Scripturalism gives us knowledge of humanity in general alone we know nothing of ourselves individually or our beliefs. Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things who can know it? This implies no one can doesn’t it? The thoughts and beliefs of Drake, or Patrick or Clifton cannot be deduced from scripture.

    “So my question is what exactly is God rewarding and punishing? It seems He is ultimately punishing instruments for doing precisely what He willed, and they had no sufficient agency to do otherwise.”

    >>Job 35:7 If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?

    Psa 16:2 [O my soul], thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou [art] my Lord: my goodness [extendeth] not to thee;

    1 Chron 29:14 But who [am] I, and what [is] my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things [come] of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.

    He is rewarding his own things with his own things, Soli Deo Gloria. I am completely astounded at how intelligent people can overlook the things they are saying. Clifton you have word for word almost mentioned the same objection that Paul mentions in Romans 9. Rom 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Rom 9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Rom 9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus?

    Does that not bother you that you are word for word contradicting the sacred scriptures?

    “and they had no sufficient agency to do otherwise”

    >>This does not mean that God actively forced them to rebel.God removes himself and left to the depravity of their nature God uses their depravity as the occasion to harden them against him. God is causing the hardening but the immediate occasion is the depravity of nature. Their own depravity, ergo, responsibility.

    Craig said,
    “The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself”

    >>I reject this premise. Sure the caual factor on the scripturalist view is outside himself but this depends on Craigs view of causality. ON his view of causlity, I am assuming this I have not read much craig, but the Scholaticss would say that his depraved nature is the cause, we say the depraved nature is the occasion and that is inside the man. The depravity of nature inside yourself is the occasion that God uses to cause your hardening.

    “to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control.”

    >>So what? Soli Deo Gloria. Salvation is not in the control of the elect it is given to the elect as a gift from God by his grace and for the glory of his mercy while others are condemned FOR THEIR SINS IN THEIR DEPRAVED NATURE INSIDE OF THEMSELVES for the glory of his justice.

    Responsibility defined: subjection to a superior authority which can either reward or punish based on one’s knowledge and actions. The basis is knowledge (Rom 1:20, 28). Rom 5:17 shows our choice is not the basis of responsibility. God’s will is directed by his nature and his will is always in accord with his nature yet God has the right to command things ad extra based on his will such as the command for Abraham to kill Isaac. My understanding of this so far is that natural law is based on God’s moral nature (The Rationes Aeternae) while positive law (Abraham and Isaac issue) on God’s will. I am willing to revise or develop this view a bit upon further reflection.

    >>With regard to the nature/will thing. In John Owen’s Dissertation on Divine Justice this is discussed in detail. I think Patrick has a good point that will is a property of nature, but I think there is on the Clarkian language room to say that the mind/thinking directs the will. Methinks from reading Clark and Augustine that what God’s thinking/affirmations is the defintion of his moral nature. This moral nature directs the will. So I disagree that the will is the highest principle. The thinking/moral nature of God is the highest principle.

    Clifton,
    1. What is you defintion of cause? The only coherent defintion of cause is an agent that neccessarily produces a uniform effect/result. But here’s the problem: only an infallible agent can neccessarily guarantee a uniform result. Ergo, the only cause can be God, ergo determinism.

    2. Even if you will only admit foreknowledge this is enough to deny free will. How then are such acts as the crucifixion made certain thousands of years before they happen? Did God arrange the universe the way it is? If yes, there are huge problems: 1. If these events are not certain then God is not omniscient or omnipotent; 2. If God arranged things the way they are then God’s foreknowledge includes causal efficacy and is therefore deterministic. 3. If God did not arrange the universe the way it is then there are independent forces operating in the universe. If that is the case, creation ex nihlio is out the door and God’s foreknowledge is not based on his purposes but is based on observations of how the universe works and his knowledge is therefore empirical and discursive. Say goodbye to Christianity.

    3. To the independent forces argument, the best semi-pelagians will say, “no we do not posit independent forces but causal chains that begin with someone outside of the Godhead.” Here is the problem with that: there are no causes outside of the Godhead.

    4. The best of the best semi-pelgians at this point are going to go into eruption mode and pull out the biggest gun they have: they will say that the Calvinist God is necessarian and everything he does is a necessity of moral nature positing the eternal generation of the Son at the same level with creation. God is then dependent on the creation and good is only good while accompanied by evil, ergo, dualism. Jown Owen answered all this in his John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 9, A Dissertation on Divine Justice, pg. 360-363. Owen said,

    “But again, though we determine the egresses of this justice to be necessary, we do not deny that God exercises it freely: for that necessity doth not exclude a concomitant liberty, but only an antecedent indifference. This only we deny, viz. that, supposing a sinful creature, the will of God can be indifferent (by virtue of the punitive justice inherent in it) to inflict, or not inflict punishment upon that creature, or to the volition of punishment, or its opposite. The whole of Scripture, indeed, loudly testifies against any such indifference; nor is it consistent with God’s supreme right over his creatures: neither do they who espouse a different side, contend with a single word brought from the Scriptures. But that God punishes sins with a concomitant liberty, because he is of all agents the most free, we have not a doubt. Thus his intellectual will is carried towards happiness by an essential inclination antecedent to liberty, and notwithstanding it wills happiness with a concomitant liberty : for to act freely is the very nature of the will; yea, it must necessarily act freely.

    Let our adversaries therefore dream as they please, that we determine God to be an absolutely necessary agent, when he is a most free one ; and that his will is so circumscribed by some kind of justice, which we maintain, that he cannot will those things which, setting the consideration of that justice aside, would be free to him. For, we acknowledge the Deity to be both a necessary and free agent: necessary in respect of all his actions, internally, or in respect of the persons in the godhead towards one another : the Father necessarily begets the Son and loves himself: as to these and such like actions, he is of all necessary agents the most necessary. But in respect of the acts of the divine will, which have their operations and effects upon external objects, he is an agent absolutely free, being one ‘ who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.’ But of these acts there are two kinds; for some are absolute and admit no respect to any antecedent condition.

    Of this kind is his purpose of creating the world, and in it rational creatures, properly adapted to know and obey the creator, benefactor, and Lord of all. In works of this kind, God hath exercised the greatest liberty : his infinitely wise and infinitely free will is the fountain and origin of all things. Neither is there in God any kind of justice, or any other essential attribute, which could prescribe any limits or measure to the divine will. But this decree of creating being supposed, the divine will undergoes a double necessity, so to speak, both in respect of the event, and in respect of its manner of acting. For in respect of the event, it is necessary, from the immutability of God, that the world should be created: and in respect of the manner of doing it, that it should be done omnipotently, because God is essentially omnipotent; and it being once supposed that he wills…to do any work without himself, he must do it omnipotently. Yet, notwithstanding these considerations, in the creation of the world, God was entirely a free agent: he exercised will and understanding in acting, although the choice of acting or not acting, and of acting in one particular way or another, is taken away by his immutability and omnipotence.
    There is another kind of the acts of the divine will, which could have no possible existence but upon a condition supposed.

    This kind contains the egresses and exercise of those attributes which could not be exercised but upon a supposition of other antecedent acts ; of which we have treated before. Of this kind, are all the acts of the divine will, in which justice, mercy, &c. exert their energy. But these attributes of the divine nature are, either for the purpose of preserving or continuing to God what belongs to him of right, supposing that state of things which he hath freely appointed ; or for bestowing on his creatures some farther good. Of the former kind is vindicatory justice, which, as it cannot be exercised but upon the supposition of the existence of a rational being, and of its sin; so, these being supposed, the supreme right and dominion of the Deity could not be preserved entire, unless it were exercised. Of the latter kind is sparing mercy, by which God bestows an undeserved good on miserable creatures. For setting aside the consideration of their misery, this attribute cannot be exercised; but that being supposed, if he be inclined to bestow any undeserved good on creatures wretched through their own transgression, he may exercise this mercy, if he will. But again, in the exercise of that justice, although if it were not to be exercised, according to our former hypothesis, God would cease from his right and dominion, and so would not be God, still he is a free, and not an absolutely necessary agent; for, he acts from will and understanding, and not from an impetus of nature only, as fire burns : and he freely willed that state and condition of things, which being supposed, that justice must necessarily be exercised. Therefore, in the exercise of it, he is not less free than in speaking; for, supposing, as I said before, that his will were to speak any thing, it is necessary that he speak the truth. These loud outcries, therefore, which the adversaries so unseasony make against our opinion, as if it determined God to be an absolutely necessary agent in his operations ad extra, entirely vanish and come to nought. But we will treat more fully of these things, when we come to answer objections.

    Finally, let it be observed, that the nature of mercy and justice are different in respect of their exercise: for, between the act of mercy and its object, no natural obligation intervenes: for God is not bound to any one, to exercise any act of mercy, neither is he bound to reward obedience: for this is a debt due from his natural right, and from the moral dependence of the rational creature, and indispensably thence arising. But between the act of justice and its object, a natural obligation intervenes, arising from the indispensable subordination of the creature to God, which supposing disobedience or sin, could not otherwise be secured than by punishment. Nor is the liberty of the divine will diminished in any respect more by the necessary egresses of divine justice, than by the exercise of other attributes: for these necessary egresses are the consequence, not of an absolute, but of a conditional necessity ; viz. a rational creature and its sin being supposed, and both existing freely in respect of God: but the necessary suppositions being made, the exercise of other perfections is also necessary; for it being supposed, that God were disposed to speak with man, he must necessarily speak according to truth.”

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  12. Patrick,

    “Now, the issue at hand is the following situation: Almighty God, holding men responsible for actions that He has predetermined. Is this act good or bad? The only way for us to find out is to consult Scripture.”

    This seems unclear, since my stance is that this subject is not covered in Scripture, given that the biblical authors had no such determinism in mind. Instead, we ought to assess which model provides the most complete understanding of God as revealed in Scripture.

    I responded to the material found in “Responsibility and Determinism”. Your charge that I have presented a straw man seems unfit. The statement “the person truly commits no deeds of his own; he merely functions as the instrument through which God acts” is my assessment of the view, not what I claim Gordon Clark believed. I realize Clark believed there to be compatibility between God’s predetermination and man’s responsibility. My point is that his reasons for believing so, namely man’s responsibility via knowledge and Adam’s sin, do nothing to make the notion more coherent. They are just restatements of the problem, since the situations to which he appeals are also determined.

    I quoted William Lane Craig on the matter of knowledge on determinism to display that if God determines one’s thoughts, it makes no sense to hold man responsible for them.

    “One cannot begin with the Holy Spirit, then deduce Scripture, for one must begin with Scripture in order to first understand the Holy Spirit”

    Scripture itself seems to disagree. Consider the following verses:

    John 14:26 (New American Standard Bible)

    “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

    1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27 (New American Standard Bible)

    20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.
    27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

    Furthermore, consider the position of not only first-century Christians, but many now that cannot read, or have no nearby Bibles. Are they to be left unable to properly understand the Spirit’s witness? William Lane Craig comments further, this time in conversation with John Frame in the book Five Views on Apologetics. He writes:

    “Notice that if we restricted the Spirit’s witness to the Scriptures, we should have to say that believers who have not yet heard or read the Scriptures (perhaps due to lack of translations) have no experience of the witness of the Spirit. But even believers without the Scriptures surely do know on the basis of the Spirit’s witness that they are God’s children. I therefore appeal to the witness of the Holy Spirit himself rather than Scripture in explaining how it is that we know Christianity is true. (pg.314)”

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  13. Clifton I have deal with all this. By the by someone can be introduced to the teaching of the scripture without reading the scripture. It can be preached or discussed in a philosophical setting.

    You are still not dealing with jer 17:9. We do not know ourselves and any arg. That assumes it needs to prove it first. Did Peter know himself when he said though all men betray you yet will not I?

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  14. I would like to qualify something. I had posted a def. Of responsibility from reading Clark and I want to change the def to include an internal volition. I believe that an internal volition is required for responsibility. I copied and pasted a def. From an old paper that I wrote and did not pay attention.

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  15. “Instead, we ought to assess which model provides the most complete understanding of God as revealed in Scripture.”

    I don’t see a conflict between this proposal and mine, “The only way for us to find out is to consult Scripture.” Obviously the sentence “Almighty God may hold men responsible for actions He has predetermined” is not explicitly in Scripture; it must be deduced from it.

    “I quoted William Lane Craig on the matter of knowledge on determinism to display that if God determines one’s thoughts, it makes no sense to hold man responsible for them.”

    Merely restating your position by quoting Craig does not show it to be true. Perhaps at this point I should just ask you why you think that it would not be within God’s rights to do with His creation as He sees fit, including holding them responsible for actions over which He has sovereignty?

    The preaching & teaching of God’s Word, apart from reading the written pages of Scripture, can be used by the Holy Spirit. What matters is the propositions of God’s revelation, not the black and white marks on the page. When Craig remarks,

    …if we restricted the Spirit’s witness to the Scriptures, we should have to say that believers who have not yet heard or read the Scriptures (perhaps due to lack of translations) have no experience of the witness of the Spirit.

    I assume by “Scriptures” he means the words as written on the page. I assume this because he speaks of “believers who have not yet heard or read the Scriptures.” But if one has not even heard the content of the gospel, one obviously cannot be a believer; what exactly would they believe?

    Also note that Craig appeals to the Holy Spirit’s witness to explain “how it is that we know Christianity is true.” I do believe that it is certainly the Holy Spirit that causes us to believe the truth of Scripture. But how do I know that that is true? By reading Scripture! In a system of thought, I cannot begin with the proposition “There is a Holy Spirit.” The term “Holy Spirit” must be defined by Scripture, and His role must be described by Scripture. Thus Scripture is more foundational, in our system of knowledge, than the existence of the Holy Spirit.

    This is not to say that Scripture precedes the Holy Spirit; rather, as truth, it is a subset of the propositions eternally known by God. What I mean to say is that when the Christian sets about to learn something about the Holy Spirit, he must do so by looking to Scripture. Perhaps that clarifies a little.

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  16. Drake,

    Sorry for the huge delay. Some things you’ve written do not appear to apply to my previous statements. I’ve tried to address everything that is relevant.

    [“Man is internally coerced to bring about the actions which God desires.”

    >>This is wrong. I reject it. God causes men to do what they do but when a man sins God determines it indirectly by removing his common gracious influence from men not by actively coercing them.]

    I’ve never heard an explanation that differentiates between causation involving sin as opposed to other human actions before. “Common gracious influence” almost sounds like Prevenient Grace, which is especially strange coming from what appears to be a determinist. I don’t understand what this means. If, however, you are affirming that God renders all human actions certain (and presumably He does not externally coerce them), I am baffled as to how this does not imply internal coercion.

    [“On such a view, one’s beliefs cannot be rationally affirmed.”

    >>We need no such affirmation. Scripturalism gives us knowledge of humanity in general alone we know nothing of ourselves individually or our beliefs.]

    You’ve said you do not need to rationally affirm your belief, yet you claim to be able to receive knowledge from Scripturalism. This suggests that your cognitive faculties yield true positions, at least with respect to Scripture. Yet my point is that our cognitive faculties, on determinism, only yield whatever God decrees them to, regardless of whether the belief is true. On this view, a person believes Atheism to be true, not because that is the best assessment of the evidence, not ultimately in light of any evidence at all, but because God decreed that that person would be an Atheist. Thus even if determinism is true, it cannot be rationally affirmed, which is precisely what you are trying to do.
    I’ve already dealt with Romans 9 in “Conversation on God, Evil, Scripture, and the Will of God & Man” in my previous discussion with Patrick. Though he disagreed, it was not demonstrated that the given interpretation was implausible.

    [What is your definition of cause? The only coherent definition of cause is an agent that necessarily produces a uniform effect/result. But here’s the problem: only an infallible agent can necessarily guarantee a uniform result. Ergo, the only cause can be God, ergo determinism.]

    Why must the definition of cause imply necessity or infallibility? This definition seems to reason in a circle since it is not obvious that all effects happen necessarily. It is true that only an infallible agent can guarantee a result, but this point seems irrelevant. Bing dictionary gives us an alternative definition:

    ‘what makes something happen: a person or thing that makes something happen or exist or is responsible for something that happens
    “the cause of all the uproar”‘

    [Even if you will only admit foreknowledge this is enough to deny free will. How then are such acts as the crucifixion made certain thousands of years before they happen? Did God arrange the universe the way it is? If yes, there are huge problems: 1. If these events are not certain then God is not omniscient or omnipotent; 2. If God arranged things the way they are then God’s foreknowledge includes causal efficacy and is therefore deterministic.]

    I’ve responded to these problems earlier in this blog, during my second interaction with David. There, I explained how God might know the future without eliminating free will, as well as how God might make providential decisions.

    [To the independent forces argument, the best semi-pelagians will say, “no we do not posit independent forces but causal chains that begin with someone outside of the Godhead.” Here is the problem with that: there are no causes outside of the Godhead. ]

    To say that there are no causes outside the Godhead is merely an assertion, not an argument. As for point 4, I have no recollection of calling God a necessarian on Calvinism.

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  17. Patrick,

    Thank you for your patience as well.

    [Merely restating your position by quoting Craig does not show it to be true.]

    Correct. The original point was that knowledge provided genuine responsibility on determinism. My counter argument is that knowledge is also determined by God, thus knowledge is not evidently compatible with human responsibility. Craig merely asserts this problem differently. I quoted him to bolster the case that knowledge is also determined, not that determinism is false.

    [Perhaps at this point I should just ask you why you think that it would not be within God’s rights to do with His creation as He sees fit, including holding them responsible for actions over which He has sovereignty?]

    I have no problem with this statement. God has sovereignty over human actions on both of our views. The difference is between permitting the actions and causing them. The problem I perceive is that the following premises are all true on determinism:

    1. Whatever God wills is just.
    2. God wills all things that come to pass. An event cannot fail to come to pass if God has willed it.
    3. God could will (these are Clark’s words, not mine) that “a man gets drunk and shoots his family”.
    4. Yet it is morally wrong for the man to have gotten drunk and shot his family.

    If this is a correct assessment of your view, what baffles me is the jump from 3 to 4. The man only did what God decreed he would do. In fact, he could not have done otherwise. What then, is his crime? I see no sensible way to understand this predicament than that the man was coerced into his action, and thus he cannot be held responsible.

    [I do believe that it is certainly the Holy Spirit that causes us to believe the truth of Scripture. But how do I know that that is true? By reading Scripture! In a system of thought, I cannot begin with the proposition “There is a Holy Spirit.” The term “Holy Spirit” must be defined by Scripture, and His role must be described by Scripture. Thus Scripture is more foundational, in our system of knowledge, than the existence of the Holy Spirit.]

    This argument begs the question. You’ve proposed that one cannot know the truth of Scripture without the Holy Spirit, yet one cannot know the Holy Spirit without Scripture. No case is given for the reliability of either the Spirit’s witness or Scripture; they are merely asserted to be veridical. Alternatively, Craig argued that the Holy Spirit’s witness is self-authenticating. As such, one may accept it without argument or evidence, unless and until some defeater is presented. It is not a means of displaying Christianity to be true, but mere personal knowledge of its truth. One may not know finer points of doctrine, but one may learn of God’s existence and his reconciliation to Him through Christ via the Spirit’s testimony. The case for the Sprit’s witness is bolstered by Scripture, which states that He teaches us all things. Since you take Scripture to be true, you ought to agree that one can know all that is required for faith based upon the Spirit’s witness. (In the event that an individual does not accept Scripture’s authority, I may appeal to my experience of the Spirit’s witness without referring to Scripture.) I believe Scripture plays a vital role in the believer’s life, just not his epistemology.

    I hope my reasoning is clearly articulated.

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  18. “I’ve never heard an explanation that differentiates between causation involving sin as opposed to other human actions before. ”
    >>I read this sentence over and over and could not make any sense out of it.

    ““Common gracious influence” almost sounds like Prevenient Grace”

    >>Not even close. Common grace is not soteric. All men enjoy this on one measure or another on the elect receive efffectual saving grace. I am a Presbyterian which is a societal religion designed to establish nations and societies not just the elect and common grace is a doctrine vital to the system. Pat T W will most likely disgaree as will any Hoeksemite, a.k.a. confused Baptists in presbyterian cloth.

    “If, however, you are affirming that God renders all human actions certain (and presumably He does not externally coerce them), I am baffled as to how this does not imply internal coercion.”

    >>Ever heard of preterition? I reject the “certainty” compared to “neccessity” distinction of Arminianism. Historically “necessary” meant an action that God does by nature, i.e. the eternal generation of the Son, etc. while “certain” referred to the immutability of God’s will. I challenege you to demonstrate your distinction. There are times when I use necessary to refer to certain.

    “You’ve said you do not need to rationally affirm your belief”

    >>Do you mean by belief the object of my belief as a noun or do you mean my individual action of belief as a verb?

    “yet you claim to be able to receive knowledge from Scripturalism”

    >>Scripturalism is a logical organization of a theory. It does not operate on the axiomatic assumption of empiricism where demonstration is a person acting and moving in a spatio temporal world and locating knowledge through sensations of created natures. The scripture gives knowldge of humabnity in general witht ht e exceptions of certain narratives throughout the lives of individuals such as Abraham, David, etc. It says nothing of Drake or Clifton, therefore it gives me no knowledge of individuals in this period of redemptive history. Whether I receive knowledge from Scripturalism is unknown, it is what I believe, it is a choice I have made. The truth of it is measured like every other theory by its consistency and internal coherence.

    “This suggests that your cognitive faculties yield true positions, at least with respect to Scripture.”

    >>This assumes upon the verb defintion of belief. I reject it. I know nothing of my own internal cognitions.

    “You’ve said you do not need to rationally affirm your belief, yet you claim to be able to receive knowledge from Scripturalism”

    >>Here again is your mistake. You are using belief in the first part of this sentence to refer to belief as an internal action and then you use Scripuralism as a synonymn for beliefe yet this time it refers to a noun, or the object of my belief.

    “Yet my point is that our cognitive faculties, on determinism, only yield whatever God decrees them to, regardless of whether the belief is true”

    >>Here is another equivocation though. On my view the true belief of the elect is given by a direct and active action of God while the error of the reprobate is caused by God through a preterition. So by “decree” you are equivocating.

    “Why must the definition of cause imply necessity or infallibility?”

    >>So what’s your defintion?

    “This definition seems to reason in a circle since it is not obvious that all effects happen necessarily”

    >>My defintion arguies from infallibility to a gurateed uniformity. You have not demonstrated that this begs any question.
    Do you mean necessarily in the sense of happen by a necessity of God’s moral nature or of God’s immutable will?

    “what makes something happen: a person or thing that makes something happen or exist or is responsible for something that happens “the cause of all the uproar”

    >>This is an occasion. The issue is, does the created agent have an essential principle of action? I deny it.

    “There, I explained how God might know the future without eliminating free will, as well as how God might make providential decisions.”

    >>Did God organize the universe the way it is? Yes or no?

    “To say that there are no causes outside the Godhead is merely an assertion, not an argument. As for point”

    >>I argued that God is the only cause by defintion, this is not an assertion. You have failed to define cause, ignoring the difference between an occasion and a cause. An occasion implies that the created nature has no essential inherent principle of action but produces only what God in his providence chooses to occur. On your view then what causes your knoweldge of God? The created nature causes it. Is it the black ink mark on the page of your Bible that causes your knowledge? What then is knowledge? On your view it seems to me to be a created nature because on your view God cannot directly cause your knowledge. Ergo, it must be meditaed to you through a second cause or on your view the created nature then is the first cause? Which is it? Anyway, the knowledge then comes to you second hand like a modem changing an analog signal to a digital signal: from an uncreated object to a created object. Then when you come to 2 peter 1:3-4 your philosophy emerges in all its true colors. When the scripture says through the revealed propositions we participate in divine nature you must posit the created nature to be the divine nature because created nature is all you participate in yet the apostle calls it divine nature, thus you are a pantheist. But then the whole system falls on its face because on the Christian view divine nature is not created.

    “As for point 4, I have no recollection of calling God a necessarian on Calvinism.”

    >>Depeneds on how you use the word necessary. I want to see a certainty distinguished from a necessity.

    >>By the by, your causation theology then makes all God’s providential powers created. So all you particpate in is a created nature from a God who has nothing but created providential powers. Huh?

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  19. Clifton:

    “My counter argument is that knowledge is also determined by God, thus knowledge is not evidently compatible with human responsibility.”

    This still begs the question, because your given reason for rejecting knowledge as the basis of responsibility is simply that, Divine determinism (in this case, determined knowledge) is incompatible with human responsibility. This assumption is the very assertion you must prove.

    This is evident because I will readily agree that the knowledge upon which man’s responsibility is based is indeed determined by God. This presents no problem for my view, precisely because I reject your assumed premise, “Divine determinism is incompatible with human responsibility.” I understand that you (and many others) have a problem with this, but the burden of proof (volleyball, anyone? ;)) lies with you, to establish exactly why man cannot be responsible to Almighty God for an act that God has determined. You have stated many times that this simply does not fit with any notion of God’s goodness that you can think of, but it is quite evident that it fits perfectly with my (and many others’) understanding of goodness.

    Yes, I do agree with the four premises you listed. However, you said,

    “I see no sensible way to understand this predicament than that the man was coerced into his action, and thus he cannot be held responsible.”

    This is because you are still assuming the premise which you must prove, namely, that man cannot be held responsible by Almighty God for an action that God determined. You assert that “he cannot be held responsible,” but you have not yet shown *why* this is the case. You believe that responsibility must be based on a non-determined action (I hope I am accurately representing your view here.). With this assumption, I totally understand why you say my view is illogical. However, I am rejecting this premise, replacing it with the assumption that responsibility is based upon knowledge (whether or not the knowledge is determined is completely beside the point, you must understand this). The question now before us is this: What is the basis for man’s responsibility to God? This is the real question to be decided between us, I believe. In the Original Post, and other recent posts, I have attempted to provide Scriptural support for responsibility being based on knowledge, along with quotes from several theologians explaining the doctrine.

    If you wish to prove this thesis wrong, you must either a) provide Scriptural support showing that man’s responsibility is not, in fact, based on knowledge, OR, b) provide Scriptural support demonstrating that man’s responsibility is based on his actions being non-determined.

    Regarding Scripture & the Holy Spirit, I don’t think you understand what I’m arguing for. This is probably due to my lack of explaining it very well. Rather than respond to your last paragraph directly, I’ll try to restate my view more clearly (the numbers are not intended to flow logically, but rather separate pertinent points):

    1. Scripture is the foundation of truth. All knowable true propositions must be deduced from Scripture.

    2. From Scripture’s teaching, we see that whenever we believe a proposition of Scripture, it is because the Holy Spirit has caused us to understand and believe that proposition.

    3. While the Person of the Holy Spirit is the Agent which causes us to believe, we cannot deduce propositions from Him apart from Scripture. We must logically deduce truth from God’s Revelation, Scripture.

    4. We cannot appeal to the Spirit’s Witness apart from Scripture; otherwise we would not be able to tell what is truly the witness of the Holy Spirit, and what is actually the witness of a demon or our own sinful mind. As Scripture says, we must “test the spirits.” The only infallible way of testing is by using Scripture.

    5. Conversely, we do not judge the truth of a particular passage of Scripture based on our own personal experiences (whether we believe them to be spiritual or not). Rather, we (by the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power) first assume the truth of Scripture, and use Scripture to judge our perceived spiritual experience.

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  20. Pat T W,
    You said, The question now before us is this: “What is the basis for man’s responsibility to God?”

    I agree that knowldge is a part of the basis but do you not also see an internal volition? The WCF 3.7 reads,

    “VII. The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by[PRETERITION], and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath FOR THEIR SIN, to the praise of his glorious justice”

    The LBC 1689 leaves this out.

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  21. Patrick,

    You’ve guessed it, our game of burden of proof volleyball continues. 🙂 I have no proof per se for the premise that God cannot determine man’s actions and then hold him responsible. Rather, it is self-evident that persons cannot be held responsible for actions that were determined by exterior forces. Michael Robinson gives an excellent example of this:

    “…consider a future where genetic engineering allowed scientists to generate infants with an overwhelming (absolutely compelling) desire to perform some evil act; in turn, suppose later in life these children deliberately are placed in situations where they have the opportunity to commit such crimes and in fact do. Under such circumstances, jurors likely would not blame the children, but rather would condemn the scientists who engineered it all. Indeed, jurors who seriously might consider blaming the children likely would do so because they doubted that the youngsters really were inwardly compelled. If the jurors truly believed that the children were engineered so that they could only choose the evil act, they would not hold them responsible. (The Storms of Providence, 51)”

    I anticipate a response that our innate moral senses are fallen and unreliable, thus we must appeal to what Scripture has to say. I still don’t understand why certain foundational truths about the world could not be deduced apart from Scripture, but I’ll address that issue shortly. Scripture makes it evident that the jurors in this case ought to be able to trust their moral senses, since the Law is written on their hearts:

    Romans 2:14-16 (New American Standard Bible)

    14For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
    15in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
    16on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

    It seems to me that, in light of these considerations, the burden of proof is on you to display that determinism and human responsibility are compatible.

    As for your points regarding Scripture and the Holy Spirit, I suppose I can agree to 2 and 5. Of all of them, I most sharply disagree with 1, though my three responses apply to 1, 3, and 4. First, God is the foundation of truth; any truth of Scripture is derived from Him. Craig notes:

    “Were the Scriptures not inspired by the Holy Spirit, they would be merely the words of human authors, having no more authority than other ancient religious texts. Thus, Scripture’s authority ultimately derives from God himself. (Five Views on Apologetics, 314)”

    Second, I fail to see how Christians who do not have Bibles would be able to arrive at the true proposition that they are regenerate. Perhaps you do not mean that individuals must literally read or hear the words of the Bible in order to have true knowledge.

    Third, Scripture itself testifies that one needs only the Spirit’s witness to know that they are children of God (see the verses I provided earlier). It seems to indicate that, even if these words had not been written, believers would still be able to know that Christianity is true. This makes sense given that the gospels are just a written account of that which already occurred.

    I hope that, in trying to be concise, I have not overlooked any vital points.

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  22. Clifton Harris,

    I would like to address one of your points.
    You said the determinists believes,

    “1. Whatever God wills is just.
    2. God wills all things that come to pass. An event cannot fail to come to pass if God has willed it.
    3. God could will (these are Clark’s words, not mine) that ‘a man gets drunk and shoots his family’.
    4. Yet it is morally wrong for the man to have gotten drunk and shot his family.”

    You then say, “If this is a correct assessment of your view, what baffles me is the jump from 3 to 4. The man only did what God decreed he would do. In fact, he could not have done otherwise. What then, is his crime? I see no sensible way to understand this predicament than that the man was coerced into his action, and thus he cannot be held responsible.”

    The problem with your understanding is that you think that “1. Whatever God wills is just.” means that since “3. God could will … that ‘a man gets drunk and shoots his family’,” therefore it is just for a man to get drunk and shoot his family.

    However, you have failed to see that “1. Whatever God wills is just.” means that God is just in causing/willing what He wills. It does not mean that it is just for a man to get drunk and shoot his family. The man has a will, and he is not just for shooting his family, but God who caused the man to will to shoot his own family is just for having cause the man to shoot his family even as He is just in causing anything that does happen.

    You are trying to say that “4. Yet it is morally wrong for the man to have gotten drunk and shot his family,” contradicts “1. Whatever God wills is just,” because if God wills something then it cannot be morally wrong (i.e. unjust), but you are confusing the fact that God is just to cause other persons to do things that God has said are unjust for those persons to do. It is unjust of that person to shoot his own family, but it was not unjust of god to cause that person to shoot his own family.

    “If this is a correct assessment of your view, what baffles me is the jump from 3 to 4.”

    Let us look at the jump from 3 to 4 then.

    “3. God could will (these are Clark’s words, not mine) that ‘a man gets drunk and shoots his family’. 4. Yet it is morally wrong for the man to have gotten drunk and shot his family.”

    Point 3 is that can can choose to have a man do something, and point 4 is that God can judge a man as being unjust for doing something that God caused the man to do. You think this is unjust of God either because of an assumed unlisted premise (i.e. begging the question) or because you have intentionally or unintentionally used ambiguous terms or phrases (which I think is the case here).

    No contradiction exists in the idea that God can judge men for things God causes men to do. Everything God Commands is just, and God is just decreeing whatever He decrees. This does not mean that men are just for doing what God decrees. God decrees that all men will do things that God has commanded them not to do, thus all men are unjust for doing what God is just in decreeing they do.

    Summary:
    1) God willing (in the sense of decreeing) something does not make that act just for the agent who God decrees to will that action.

    2) God willing (in the sense of commanding) something does make that act just for the agent who God decrees to will that action.

    3) You have basically failed to distinguish between the ideas of “what comes to pass” and “what is morally obligatory”. Is does not imply ought.

    We get ethics form what God commands. We do not get ethics from what God decrees to come to pass. Inability to avoid evil does not make evil excusable.

    Do you believe that men are able to not sin in this life?

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  23. Drake,

    you quoted Clifton Harris as saying, “‘Common gracious influence’ almost sounds like Prevenient Grace”

    To which you replied:

    “>>Not even close. Common grace is not soteric. All men enjoy this on one measure or another on the elect receive efffectual saving grace. I am a Presbyterian which is a societal religion designed to establish nations and societies not just the elect and common grace is a doctrine vital to the system. Pat T W will most likely disgaree as will any Hoeksemite, a.k.a. confused Baptists in presbyterian cloth. ”

    I guess Gordon Clark, John Robbins, and I are Baptistsin Presbyterian cloth by that definition. “Common Grace” is a doctrine of demons, Drake. The idea that God favors the reprobate in any way is clearly contradictory since the reprobate the people whom God has eternally disfavored. God did not love Esau. I would rather be a part of a Baptist church than a church that says that God loves evil which He has not atoned for.

    Do you hold to the same definition of Common Grace that I do? By “Common Grace” I mean:
    1) God loves the reprobate in a non-saving way.
    2) God restrains the sin of the reprobate out of His love for them.
    3) God causes the reprobate to do civil righteousness out of His love for them.

    Do you also hold to “the Free Offer of the Gospel”? By “the Free Offer of the Gospel” I mean:
    1) God desires the salvation of the reprobate.
    2) God blesses the reprobate through the preaching of the Law and Gospel.

    Are you a Supralapsarian? I am. I thought I remembered you claiming to be one too.

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  24. David,

    First of all, thank you for the attention paid to my argument. I can see that great care was taken not to talk past me.

    [Point 3 is that (God) can choose to have a man do something, and point 4 is that God can judge a man as being unjust for doing something that God caused the man to do. You think this is unjust of God either because of an assumed unlisted premise (i.e. begging the question) or because you have intentionally or unintentionally used ambiguous terms or phrases (which I think is the case here).]

    Actually, it appears that I am guilty of both offenses, though the latter is unintentional. Due to the fact that I do not adhere to this theological system, I have a tendency to disregard the distinction between God’s commands and actual decrees. As for my assumed unlisted premise, I’ll repost my statement to Patrick, since the answer is the same.

    { I have no proof per se for the premise that God cannot determine man’s actions and then hold him responsible. Rather, it is self-evident that persons cannot be held responsible for actions that were determined by exterior forces. Michael Robinson gives an excellent example of this:

    “…consider a future where genetic engineering allowed scientists to generate infants with an overwhelming (absolutely compelling) desire to perform some evil act; in turn, suppose later in life these children deliberately are placed in situations where they have the opportunity to commit such crimes and in fact do. Under such circumstances, jurors likely would not blame the children, but rather would condemn the scientists who engineered it all. Indeed, jurors who seriously might consider blaming the children likely would do so because they doubted that the youngsters really were inwardly compelled. If the jurors truly believed that the children were engineered so that they could only choose the evil act, they would not hold them responsible. (The Storms of Providence, 51)”}

    I cannot prove that something is moral or immoral in an exterior manner. One must ponder a moral situation and assess whether it is acceptable based upon conscience. (Scripture lays out no specifics of determinism and its relationship to morality). If you think, as I do, that the scientists in Robinson’s example have acted immorally, and that the children are not truly responsible, then you ought to have a problem saying God can do the exact same thing to us without there being a moral problem.

    [We get ethics form what God commands. We do not get ethics from what God decrees to come to pass. Inability to avoid evil does not make evil excusable.

    Do you believe that men are able to not sin in this life?]

    Given the sinful nature of man as passed down from Adam, sin is inevitable in all men. Scripture makes this clear and so I ought not to disagree. On Libertarianism, man is free to sin or not sin in individual cases. But, given that a being cannot act inconsistently with his nature, and man is sinful by nature, he must eventually sin.

    I agree that we get ethics (I would say moral duties) from God’s commands and not His decrees. There is no dispute that God decreed “let there be light”, yet clearly we have no duty to create light. I see a distinction, however, between a decree involving nature and one involving moral actions. Why issue a command if you have already decreed that the individual will disobey? Further, why be angry at them, as though their disobedience were a surprise? This model seems to turn the vast majority of biblical passages involving sin into a farce, since God’s command that the individual abstain from sin does not reflect His true desire.

    Like

  25. Pat t w,
    What I was asking is do you see an internal volition as requisite for responsibility?

    Clifton,
    It seems to me that you cannot deal with the historical answer to determinism and responsibility: a preterition.

    David Reece,

    From what I have studied hoeksema constructed a view of the covenants that was his own novel innovation from the view previously held by Presbyterians. I do not know much about the man but I plan on doing a huge study on these issues of the covenants after I pass my A certification and finish my bout with the eastern orthodox on soteriology and lapsarianism. Yes I am supralapsarian. I hold to clark’s construction but I would put deification first then justification as a substitute for the general term salvation. The whole idea that God eternally decreed his purpose of creation to be a repairing of his mess just seems stupid. For a sinner to 2 peter 1:3-5 participate in divine nature to the glory of God is the intended purpose of man. Give me 7 months or so before I answer you on the common grace issue. I want to read all the big guys and watch this issue develop from the 16th century up to horksema before I commit to precise language. I follow Rutherford’s theology the closest and he clearly believed in common grace and the free offer in covenant of life opened and trial and triumph of faith.

    Just a note Clark admitted tO the distinction between the secretive and perceptive aspects of God’s will in religion reason and revelation pg 222

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  26. David Reece,
    In essence my position on lapsarianism is the view that Robert Reymond defends in the book: Perspectives on Election. Don’t let me confuse you with my deification language. I just think that the deification doctrine has been ignored in Reformed Camps and methinks Clark’s philosophy allows for the clearest understanding of it though he denies deification in his commentary on 2 Peter 1:4. Basically the idea of univocal knowledge is that we participate in the same proposition that God has in his mind (the true realities), i.e. uncreated light, uncreated knowledge and we possess this knowledge, i.e. deification.

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  27. Pat T W,
    When I was refering to God’s nature directing his will I think it can be more clearly stated by saying that God’s essential attributes direct his will, per Owen Dissertation on Divine Justice.

    Like

  28. Clifton,

    >>You said to this statement

    “Did God arrange the universe the way it is? If yes, there are huge problems: 1. If these events are not certain then God is not omniscient or omnipotent; 2. If God arranged things the way they are then God’s foreknowledge includes causal efficacy and is therefore deterministic.]”

    >>that

    “I’ve responded to these problems earlier in this blog, during my second interaction with David. There, I explained how God might know the future without eliminating free will, as well as how God might make providential decisions.”

    >>I could not find this section. If it was based on a distinction between necessary and certain I reject it because the distnction as Cotrell and other Professional Arminians use it, fails in its meaning and fails to deal with the fact that traditionally necessary refers to an action essential to God such as the eternal generation of the Son while certain refers to the immutability of the will. I reject that you dealt with point 2.

    >>You said,

    “I’ve already dealt with Romans 9 in “Conversation on God, Evil, Scripture, and the Will of God & Man” in my previous discussion with Patrick. Though he disagreed, it was not demonstrated that the given interpretation was implausible.”

    >>Your interpretation is the innovative view of national election unto service. A view I have read many times: Arguments that this view is impossible:

    1. Romans 9:30-33 summarizes with the fact that israel has sought saving righteousness not divine service by works not by faith. You must make him say, “Israel has not attained divine work and service because they sought it by work.” Nonsense. Paul weeps for them in 10:1-4 because they are not saved, not because they have lost a divinely given administrative occupation.

    2. Rom 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

    Your view must read like this: vs 6 “For they are not all administrative visible servants of God who are descdendents of those who were administrative visible servants of God”, vs 7 “Nor are they all administrative visible servants of God because they are Abraham’s descendants”. Yet that is exactly what your view says they were. Etnic Israel; was chosen by God for visible divine service, to show to the nationas certain things even though many of them were not really converted. Continuing, vs 8 “it is not the children of the flesh who are administrative visible servants of God, but the children of administrative visible service are regarded as descendants” Nonsense! The entire nation of ethnic Israel though many were not converted were servants of God in the judging of the idolatry of the people in the land of Canaan amongst many other things.

    3. The question in Romans 9:14 “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!” only arises in the context of an individual election unto salvation. Verse 15 comes along and regards this election as merciful when it says, I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” Mercy regards salvation not visible administration.

    4. Robert Reymond says,
    “The divine rejection of Pharoah and Egypt…[Israel] they neither desired Moses to deliver them [from Egypt] now were they capable of delivering themselves. During his conversation with Moses leading up to Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God declared that he would harden Pharoah’s heart throughout the course of the ten plagues [Exo 14:4-17] precisely in order to ‘multiply’ his signs and wonders and thereby to place his sovereign power in the boldest possible relief and this in order that both Egypt and Israel would learn that it was his power that affected the nation’s deliverance.” (Perspectives on Election pg. 138) The delivrance from Egypt clearly symbolizes salvation not visible administrative service seeing that delivery from Egypt was brought about at last through the destroyer who kileld the Egyptian’s firstborn and passed over those houses covered in the blood of the lamb, typical of Christ’s sacrifice “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” 1 Cor 5:7. From the baptism into Moses in the Red Sea when Egypt’s army was destroyed (1 Cor 10:2) to the Rock which followed Israel in the wilderness the context is soteric not visible administration to service.

    5. Rom 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
    This verse refers to a single man not to a nation.

    6. John Murray says,
    “The thesis that Paul is dealing merely with the election of Israel collectively and applying the clause in question [9:11] only to this feature of redemptive history would not meet the precise situation. The question posed for the apostle is: how can the covenant promise of God be regarded as inviolate when the mass of those who belong to Israel, who are comprised in the elect nation in terms of the Old Testament passages cited above (Deut. 4:37 et al.), have remained in unbelief and come short of the covenant promises? His answer would fail if it were simply an appeal to the collective, inclusive, theocratic election of Israel. Such a reply would be no more than appeal to the fact that his kinsmen were Israelites and thus no more than a statement of the fact which, in view of their unbelief, created the problem. Paul’s answer is not the collective election of Israel but rather “they are not all Israel, who are of Israel.” And this means in terms of the stage of discussion at which we have no arrived, “they are no all elect, who are elect of Israel.” As we found above, there is the distinction between Israel and the true Israel, between children and true children, between the seed and the true seed. In such a distinction resides Paul’s answer to Israel’s unbelief. So now the same kind of distinction must be carried through to the problem as it pertains to the collective, theocratic election of Israel. The conclusion, therefore, is that when Paul says “the purpose of God according to election” he is speaking of the electing purpose of God in a discriminating, differentiating sense that cannot apply to all who were embraced in the theocratic election. (The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2, p. 18)”

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  29. Clifton Harris,

    You said, “David, First of all, thank you for the attention paid to my argument. I can see that great care was taken not to talk past me.”

    You are welcome. I am sorry I did not give you this appropriate respect the first time I posted in this discussion.

    You said, “Actually, it appears that I am guilty of both offenses, though the latter is unintentional. Due to the fact that I do not adhere to this theological system, I have a tendency to disregard the distinction between God’s commands and actual decrees. As for my assumed unlisted premise, I’ll repost my statement to Patrick, since the answer is the same.”

    Thank you for your honesty. I will move on to what you said to Patrick since you have removed this objection.

    You said to Patrick, “I have no proof per se for the premise that God cannot determine man’s actions and then hold him responsible. Rather, it is self-evident that persons cannot be held responsible for actions that were determined by exterior forces. Michael Robinson gives an excellent example of this: ‘…consider a future where genetic engineering allowed scientists to generate infants with an overwhelming (absolutely compelling) desire to perform some evil act; in turn, suppose later in life these children deliberately are placed in situations where they have the opportunity to commit such crimes and in fact do. Under such circumstances, jurors likely would not blame the children, but rather would condemn the scientists who engineered it all. Indeed, jurors who seriously might consider blaming the children likely would do so because they doubted that the youngsters really were inwardly compelled. If the jurors truly believed that the children were engineered so that they could only choose the evil act, they would not hold them responsible. (The Storms of Providence, 51)’ I cannot prove that something is moral or immoral in an exterior manner. One must ponder a moral situation and assess whether it is acceptable based upon conscience. (Scripture lays out no specifics of determinism and its relationship to morality). If you think, as I do, that the scientists in Robinson’s example have acted immorally, and that the children are not truly responsible, then you ought to have a problem saying God can do the exact same thing to us without there being a moral problem.”

    First, I do not think this is self evident I think it assumes additional premises, but I also think that this analogy fails because men should still be punished for evil actions they cannot avoid doing If the Bible is true since original sin must be rejected if we say otherwise (as I think you have admitted in a text I will quote bellow). the analogy fails on this basis by itself, but there is an additional reason to reject the analogy.

    More importantly, this analogy ends with judging the Scientist who is being compared with God. We cannot judge God because no standard is above God. God is Ex Lex. God is above the law, outside of the jurisdiction of the law. If a man causes another man to sin, then that man has sinned by causing another man to sin, but that is because that man is under the law. God is not under the law. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ became under the law as a man as the representative of the elect of God, but the Trinity is not under the law. We cannot call God to give an account because we have no place to do so, and no person can have such a place. this analogy shows the error of Arminianism. Arminians seek to subjugate God to their judgment of what God should or should not have done. I would plead with you to not do this. God can cause others to do evil without being evil Himself because He tells us that what He does is by definition good.

    You said, “Given the sinful nature of man as passed down from Adam, sin is inevitable in all men. Scripture makes this clear and so I ought not to disagree. On Libertarianism, man is free to sin or not sin in individual cases. But, given that a being cannot act inconsistently with his nature, and man is sinful by nature, he must eventually sin.”

    I think what you have just said contradicts Libertarian Free Will by admitting that a man cannot equally choose between two alternatives.

    you said, “I agree that we get ethics (I would say moral duties) from God’s commands and not His decrees. There is no dispute that God decreed “let there be light”, yet clearly we have no duty to create light. I see a distinction, however, between a decree involving nature and one involving moral actions. Why issue a command if you have already decreed that the individual will disobey? Further, why be angry at them, as though their disobedience were a surprise? This model seems to turn the vast majority of biblical passages involving sin into a farce, since God’s command that the individual abstain from sin does not reflect His true desire.”

    You did not explain the distinction between a decree involving nature and a decree involving moral actions.

    “Why issue a command if you have already decreed that the individual will disobey?”

    Because it is God’s plan for men to be sinners for the purpose of displaying His glory by showing His wrath upon evil and his mercy upon evil which He has atoned for. Sin was necessary for the display of Justice and of mercy. adoption and Reprobation were the ways in which God chose to display His glory.

    “Further, why be angry at them, as though their disobedience were a surprise?”

    God is not surprised obviously, and God’s anger is not an emotion or an upheaval. God has no emotions. God’s wrath/anger is an unchanging rational attitude of disapproval. God hates what is evil and loves what is good … always. God created evil so that He could poor out punishment upon it in this case of the reprobate and to show mercy towards it in the case of the elect by the imputation of righteousness from Christ.

    “This model seems to turn the vast majority of biblical passages involving sin into a farce, since God’s command that the individual abstain from sin does not reflect His true desire.”

    No Farce is created. all of God’s commands are to be understood as threatenings and promisings. Punishment is promised for disobedience, and reward is promised for obedience. No place will you find God saying “I desire ‘X’, but ‘X’ did not happen. I did not get what I wanted!” You see God saying “Do ‘X’ or ‘Y’ will happen.” you see God saying “Because you did not do ‘X’ you will be cursed.” The purpose of the law is to condemn all men, then Christ saves some. Is not sitting around crying about how He is so sad that His creation didn’t go the way He planned.

    God’s command does not tell us His decree anymore than His decree tells us His command. God’s command creates duty. God’s decree creates history. No farce, no contradiction exists. The explanation is logically consistent.

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  30. David,

    You’ve said that the analogy fails because it does not take original sin into account. The children are not on trial for original sin; they are on trial for the evil act which they committed due to the scientist’s engineering.

    “God can cause others to do evil without being evil Himself because He tells us that what He does is by definition good.”

    The problem with such a statement is that any god or dictator could make the claim to goodness and yet issue decrees that wildly contradict the definition of good. This is simply might making right: “Superior strength can enforce one’s will or dictate justice (answers.com)”. God may not be able to be put on trial, but the point is that the scientists have acted unjustly, and they have done precisely what determinists claim God does. In his conversation with God, Abraham insists that He act consistently with justice, to which God complies!

    Genesis 18:25 (New American Standard Bible)

    25″Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

    This is not to say (nor do I think the passage implies) that we serve as judges of God, but rather that God actions always comport with justice, and we can recognize this.

    “I think what you have just said contradicts Libertarian Free Will by admitting that a man cannot equally choose between two alternatives.”

    I never said that man cannot equally choose between two alternatives. At any point, man can choose to do A (sin, in this case), or not A (avoid sin). But with respect to sin in its entirety, man will inevitably sin, since he is a sinner by nature. I don’t know whether or not it is theoretically possible to live without sin, but Scripture clearly states that all men have and presumably will sin.

    “Sin was necessary for the display of Justice and of mercy.”

    I contended this point with Patrick in our previous conversation and would recommend looking to it for further clarity. It is questionable enough as to whether this is a display of justice at all. After all, I’ve illustrated through a human example that it appears to be a display of injustice. But even if I granted that such a display were necessary, my question is why God must condemn the vast majority of humanity, if He could save all persons without violating their free will? On this view, God could determine that all or at least most persons choose Him while still displaying justice against the sins they commit. Why send so many people to Hell? It seems that you are confronted with a dilemma: either God had to exercise ‘justice’ on so many, and thus He is dependent upon creation; or He could have done otherwise, and thus there is gratuitous evil.

    “No place will you find God saying “I desire ‘X’, but ‘X’ did not happen. I did not get what I wanted!” ‘

    There are plenty of verses indicating that God desires something that evidently does not come to pass. I’ll only bring up two for now.

    Ezekiel 33:11 (New American Standard Bible)

    11″Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

    Ezekiel 18:23 (New American Standard Bible)

    23″Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?

    Unless you want to say that God does not truly desire that the wicked repent (i.e. making Scripture into a farce), these passages seem to indicate that God desire X, yet X does not happen.

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  31. Pat, David, Clifton

    I am reading through Perspectives on Election and carefully dealing point by point with the Arminian view presented by Jack Cottrell and such a devstating point emerged in his dealing with Romans 9 to the Arminian, Reformed Baptist and Hoeksemite Presbyterian view that I cannot keep quite about it.

    Cottrell says of Romans 9 on pg. 124
    “the problem was simply this: ‘Why are so many Jews lost, when God has promised to save them all?’

    According to most Calvinists Paul’s answer to this question goes something like this: ‘It’s true that God made a covenant with Abraham and with Israel that includes salvation promises. So why are not all Jews saved? Because God never intended to give this salvation to all Jews in the first place. All along he had planned to make a division withing Israel, undonditionally bestowing salvation on some and unconditionally withholding it from the rest.’

    But how does this answer the charge that God is unrighteous or unfair in his dealings with the Jews? In my judgment this is no answer at all.. ”

    He says again on pg. 125 positing his view
    “Contrary to what the Jews commonly thought ethnic Israel as a whole was not chosen for salvation.”

    1. Cottrell is confusing election and actual salvation. Election is unconditional and before time. Actual salvation is conditional upon the condition of faith and in time.

    On the Rutherfordian Scottish view the condition to enter the Covenant of Grace (COG) is profession of faith or to be a child or household servant of someone who does profess faith. Faith is the condition to receive that which is promised by the COG, i.e. actual salvation.

    Rutherford says in Covenant of Life Opened (COLO) pg. 43

    “For God by no necessity of justice, but of his own free pleasure, requireth faith as a condition of our actual reconciliation.”

    pg. 44

    “if God out of his grace which is absolutely free, work in us the condition of believing. Can God give his Son as a ransom for us, upon the condition that we believe if he himself absolutely work the condition in us? They will not admit this.”

    Here he clearly posits faith as the condition and asserts that God gives the elect the condition and withholds it from the reprobate.

    2. God gave to the entire nation of Israel salvation promises but these promises were conditional.

    Deut 30:5-6 says 5″The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6″Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.

    God’s promise is to the circumcision of the heart. The objection is that this is eschatalogical because the land promise was not fulfilled. Wrong. 1 Kings 4:21 and Neh 9:8 prove that God fulfilled that literal promise. So Cotrell and the Baptists are wrong that salvation was not promised to the nation as a whole. The issue is the promise was conditional. Therefore the Arminiansview of Romans 9 is manifestly wrong.

    So how is God just if he gave salvation promises to all but only saved some? The promises were conditional and he did not actively and directly force the reprobate to not believe he simply preterized them, passed them over and left them to their own depraved natures. The therefore according to their nature rejected salvation through faith and sought it by works of the law.

    Therefore, the Arminian objection to Scottish Reformed Calvinism’s
    view of Romans 9 is manifestly wrong, though the Calvinistic Baptist and Hoeksemite view stands directly in the scope of the Arminian sniper.

    The Baptist view is maifestly wrong: why? 1.The promise to the nation of Israel and the physical descendants or Paul’s whole distinction between Israel distinct from Israel is meaningless. 2.If the promise was given to the nation and the promise of the COG is unconditional God is indeed unjust in giving salvation only to some and we are right back to the main problem. 3. The promise in Det 30:6 was salvation, ergo, their view of the Covenant is wrong. 4. The only way to vindicate God’s justice is to make the promise conditional which means that there are more than believers in the COG because of the very fact that unbelievers received COG promises.

    The Hoeksemite Presbyterian view is wrong for many of the same reasons: 1.If the promise was given to the nation and the promise of the COG is unconditional God is indeed unjust in giving salvation only to some and we are right back to the main problem. 2. The only way to vindicate God’s justice is to make the promise conditional which means that there are more than believers in the COG because of the very fact that unbelievers received COG promises.

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  32. Quick Note to All: My wife and I have now moved into our new apartment and do not have any internet access, thus my replies may be few and far between.

    Drake: You’re getting off-topic, and opening up several more cans of worms that need not be opened in this thread. Your attempted critique of the “Reformed Baptist view” demonstrates your ignorance of the differences among Reformed Baptists (and Paedobaptists e.g. Owen) on the subject of the Covenants. I do not equate the Mosaic Covenant with the Covenant of Grace, so your entire explanation of how “the Reformed Baptist view” is “manifestly wrong” fails, because instead of finding out what my view is, you refute a straw man that you’ve attributed to me. With that said, I’m not interested in debating that point with you in this thread. Perhaps if I write a post on the Mosaic Covenant, we could discuss it there.

    Clifton: I’ll get back to you ASAP; thanks once again for your patience.

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  33. @Drake: I guess I would say that only volitional creatures (i.e. men and angels) are able to respond, and therefore possession of an internal volition is a requisite for responsibility. However, degrees of greater or lesser responsibility are not issued based on greater or lesser volition, but on the level of knowledge. Thus I have no problem with someone saying that the basis (singular) of responsibility is knowledge. I’ve never heard anyone argue that a rock or a dog is responsible to God, so I don’t bother with specifying internal volition as a requisite for responsibility. Hopefully I’ve understood and answered your question.

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  34. Pat,
    First, this issue is core to the interpretation of Romans 9. Don’t see how that’s off topic. I am not that familiar with Owen’s view of the COG and Moses so I was probably wrong for using the COG language. Either way, I don’t see how it changes the force of the arg.
    I am guessing that this statement:
    “2.If the promise was given to the nation and the promise of the COG is unconditional God is indeed unjust in giving salvation only to some and we are right back to the main problem.”
    was your COG complaint.
    1. Do you accept or reject that Deut 30:6 is a promise of salvation to the OT people of God?
    2. If yes, was the promise conditional or unconditional?
    3. If unconditional my point remains, if conditional are you therefore asserting that salvation promises can be given to people outside of the COG? Where does Owen talk about this?

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  35. Sorry about the length of this reply. Believe it or not, I am trying to remain as concise as possible.

    Clifton, you said,

    “[I]t is self-evident that persons cannot be held responsible for actions that were determined by exterior forces.”

    I do not believe that it is self-evident. It certainly is not self-evident in the way that A=A is. Perhaps you mean that the truth of this statement is so obvious that it should not be contested. If this is so, then one need only look at the many theologians & philosophers throughout history who have challenged this assertion to see that it is not obviously true, and in fact very well may be (and of course I argue that it is) a mistaken assumption based on a non-scriptural ethical system.

    Robinson’s scientist analogy fails because it compares human scientists (who are responsible to God’s law as His creation) with God (who is Arbiter and Lawgiver, and Who must give no response to any being or concept higher than Himself). Thus, we may judge the scientists as being guilty (of breaking God’s law for mankind), but what Law is there that God must answer to? He is Lawgiver; He is not under the law which He has given for man. Thus Robinson’s analogy does not work because it compares apples to oranges on the precise element under discussion: There is none higher than God that He must answer to. The scientists have parents, governments, and finally God to answer to. Yet who are we to say that God would be unjust if He did anything at all? He is not bound by any judgment but His own.

    David Reece’s comments on this are very good, I think:

    “More importantly, this analogy ends with judging the Scientist who is being compared with God. We cannot judge God because no standard is above God. God is Ex Lex. God is above the law, outside the jurisdiction of the law. If a man causes another man to sin, then that man has sinned by causing another man to sin, but that is because that man is under the law. God is not under the law. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ became under the law as a man as the representative of the elect of God, but the Trinity is not under the law. We cannot call God to give an account because we have no place to do so, and no person can have such a place. … God can cause others to do evil without being evil Himself because He tells us that what He does is by definition good.”

    I noted that in your response to David, you said,

    “This is not to say (nor do I think the passage implies) that we serve as judges of God, but rather that God’s actions always comport with justice, and we can recognize this.”

    To this I would simply reply that apart from God’s law, there is no justice. Our knowledge of justice is received from Scripture, which verifies/explains the moral law written on our hearts as part of the Image of God. The very concept of justice is derived from God’s actions, thus if God performs an act, that act is just *for Him to do*, simply because He chose to do it.

    A quick example that I assume you wouldn’t argue with is revenge: Christians are not to seek revenge; to do so would be unjust, for it is not their place. God however, is perfectly just in His execution of vengeance. If God decides to strike a man dead, He is just in doing so. Humans, on the other hand, are responsible to God’s law, and cannot arbitrarily kill a man.

    You also said, to me,

    “It seems to me that, in light of these considerations, the burden of proof is on you to display that determinism and human responsibility are compatible.”

    This is precisely what I have been trying to do, in the course of several of my recent blog posts, and in undertaking this conversation. So far, the only opposition I’ve received is your insistence that God cannot hold men accountable for actions He has determined. When asked why you insist so, your reply is that it is self-evident. David, Drake, and I all reject this assertion, and have attempted to show our reasons for doing so, using Scripture and logic to show how God is Ex Lex, and by definition can only perform good actions, such that if He performs an action, He is just in doing so. You cannot expect any of us to simply accept your assertion because you keep repeating it. You must demonstrate the necessity of your assumption from Scripture, else it remains an idea in your head which cannot demand belief from anyone.

    Regarding Scripture & the Holy Spirit, and your rejection of my premise #1: I am not distinguishing between God and God’s Word. When I state that the Scriptures are the foundation of truth, I do not intend injury to God as Truth itself. Just as I do not distinguish between you and the words which you type (in this response, I am responding to you, Clifton, the person, but I am also responding to the words which you have typed out), I do not draw a distinction between God and His revealed Word. I certainly believe that there are true propositions that are not revealed in Scripture, and are only known by God (Deut 29:29). Perhaps, hopefully, this alleviates your objection on this point.

    You also said,

    “I fail to see how Christians who do not have Bibles would be able to arrive at the true proposition that they are regenerate.”

    This is a good point. I do not believe that anyone, even I myself, can deduce from Scripture that he or she is regenerate. I certainly believe that I am, but I cannot “know” this in the strict sense that I know, for example, that Christ was ressurected. This is why we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Many are greatly assured that they are saved, but are not (Matt 7:21ff). On the other hand, many Christians often struggle with doubts about their salvation. That being said, we may be getting a bit too off topic for this thread if we continue down this particular road.

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  36. @Drake: I understand the relevance of your comments to a discussion of Romans 9, but this thread is about the compatibility of determinism and responsibility. It is not about whether or not there are unbelievers in the Covenant of Grace. The last time you tried to argue about that, very recently at Sean Gerety’s blog, you stamped your foot declaring that none of us were your brothers and promptly left. Thus you could hopefully understand why I’m not terribly interested in a repeat of that display. As I said in my last reply:

    “I’m not interested in debating that point with you in this thread. Perhaps if I write a post on the Mosaic Covenant, we could discuss it there.”

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  37. Patrick,

    [A quick example that I assume you wouldn’t argue with is revenge: Christians are not to seek revenge; to do so would be unjust, for it is not their place. God however, is perfectly just in His execution of vengeance. If God decides to strike a man dead, He is just in doing so. Humans, on the other hand, are responsible to God’s law, and cannot arbitrarily kill a man.]

    God has the right to take any of our lives at any moment indeed. It is also true that God’s right to do so is grounded in His superior authority, given that no one issues commands which God is obligated to obey. So what is the difference between this and determinism? If God takes a life, He may do so directly, independent of creaturely agents, without holding someone else responsible for His decree. He would rightly claim full responsibility. This situation is at least plausibly quite different.

    We all seem to be in agreement that the scientists have behaved immorally. (If not please explain why.) I gave Scriptural evidence (Gen. 18:25; Rom. 2:15) to suggest that I am within my rights to appeal to my moral intuitions on this matter. This perception holds even if the scientists were immune to the law does it not? Thus sheer immunity to judgment does not render one’s actions just. Obviously neither does the simple declaration that one is just, especially if the individual in question decrees murder, rape, child abuse, and the like. So my question is if the above is true, how does stating God is just in spite of coercing individuals just as the scientists have amount to any more than special pleading?
    Regarding Scripture and the Holy Spirit, you assume that Scripture is God’s Word, and I agree. However, I do not think that this is sufficiently obvious in light of apparent contradictions to use as an epistemological starting point. Rather, the inerrancy of the Bible if often deduced from the attributes of God, Gospel writer’s track record of reliability, and the Spirit’s witness. On the matter of what believers are to do in the absence of a copy of the Bible you’ve said the following:

    [This is a good point. I do not believe that anyone, even I myself, can deduce from Scripture that he or she is regenerate. I certainly believe that I am, but I cannot “know” this in the strict sense that I know, for example, that Christ was resurrected.]

    Ironically, this is the only point at which I expected, even hoped, that you would disagree! Rather than be off topic, this seems vital as to the effectiveness of one’s religious epistemology (though I’ll leave it alone after this so long as Scripturalism is not insisted upon as correct). One may have a great deal of confidence of their salvation. Scripture seems to encourage such confidence based upon the Holy Spirit’s work in us:

    1 John 4:13 (New American Standard Bible)

    13By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that both of us have unfolded our entire arguments at this point. We may be getting near the end of productive conversation, and may wind up simply repeating old points. I’m not sure what to do about this.

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  38. I hate to comment twice in a row, but a couple points need clarification:

    1. With regard to God taking life, one must also consider that God not only creates life, but also sustains it in an ultimate sense, neither of which man does. Thus, for God to take a life is quite different from another human; He simply ceases to sustain the individual.

    2. The point that was to be self-evident was that if human agents determined one another in such a way, the determiner would be guilty, not the determined. (I did not intend to claim that determinism was self-evidently false). Based upon a presumed agreement on this, I argued that there are no justifying circumstances which make God’s decree morally different from that of the scientists. To ground the difference between God and the scientists in God’s superior authority is fallacious. There is no reason whatsoever to think that might makes right.

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  39. Clifton said,

    “This situation is at least plausibly quite different.”

    Yes, it is a different situation, but it is an example of how God is just in performing actions that would be unjust for humans. This is the purpose for which I used the example, and this is why the scientist analogy doesn’t work: The scientist analogy assumes that if the scientists are deemed unjust, therefore it would be unjust for God to perform a similar action. This is a non sequitur, as my example of God taking revenge demonstrates. Just because a scientist would be unjust to perform a certain action, it does not logically follow that God would also be unjust in His performing the same action.

    “We all seem to be in agreement that the scientists have behaved immorally.”

    Agreed, because they are men accountable to God’s Law.

    “I gave Scriptural evidence (Gen. 18:25; Rom. 2:15) to suggest that I am within my rights to appeal to my moral intuitions on this matter.”

    Regarding Gen 18:25, we are not to understand this passage to teach that God’s destruction of a (relatively) righteous man would be unjust. God may take the life of a believer whenever and however He chooses, as I’m sure you would agree. Thus we cannot take the pleading assumptions of Abraham, who had much less revelation than is available to us, to dictate to us a notion of inherent good/evil in a specific act. The fact that God indulged Abraham temporarily, for the sake of demonstrating the complete depravity of Sodom, proves nothing. Nowhere does God admit that yes, it would be wrong of Him to kill a righteous man living in Sodom.

    Regarding Romans 2:15, let it be observed that the passage refers to the law (of God) which is written on men’s hearts, as they are created in the image of God. Let it also be observed, that due to the effects of sin, man’s image (including his sense of morality) is defaced. As a result, not all men judge right and wrong alike. Cannibals, Polygamists, Atheists, Pagans, etc. all practice their way of life in defiance of God’s law written on their hearts. This is why Scripture, specifically God’s moral law, must be used as a basis for ethics. Now, as all this relates to your point: My moral intuitions (guided, checked, and affirmed by Scripture) tell me that, for the scientist, that was an evil act. My same moral intuitions do not tell me the same about Almighty Creator-Judge God, nor does it logically follow that God is held under the law that He prescribed for man, thus I see no reason to accept your moral intuition over my own. Thus we must return to Scripture as the only infallible guide for ethics. You simply can’t use analogies where humans represent God: that is where the analogy inevitably fails, because it muddles the very point of argument.

    “This perception holds even if the scientists were immune to the law does it not?”

    I do not accept this assumption, because no act is, in and of itself, good or bad. An act can only be considered good or evil as it relates to God’s law. For example, the simple act of one man killing another. Is this good or bad? Well, it depends! Is this a case of malicious murder? Self-defense? Accidental? Capital Punishment? Did God command the killing, such as numerous examples of war in the OT? Clearly, we must judge the act (the form of which remains the same in each case) by what God has said concerning the circumstances. One can clearly make a case against the scientists from Scripture; One can hardly make a case against God for doing as He wishes with His creation.

    By comparing humans to God in your analogies, you commit the same fallacy that I would if I were to go the opposite way, and claim that, on your view, it would be morally wrong for a child to smash his play-doh creation. Obviously, we do not compare play-doh to man; so also we cannot compare man to God in cases of ethics. (This goes even further, since the child did not create the play-doh, nor does he sovereignly sustain its existence.)

    “…how does stating God is just in spite of coercing individuals just as the scientists have amount to any more than special pleading?”

    Here we should clarify our terms. No one is claiming that God coerces individuals. Dictionary.com lists the definition of “coerce” as “[to] Persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats.”

    The Westminster Confession of Faith III.I states concerning God’s Eternal Decree,

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

    By this the Westminster Divines declared that man is never forced by God to something against his will, but rather that God ordains the psychological processes that form man’s will (Philippians 2:13). With this correction of terminology in place, the difference between creaturely scientists, who are evil because they transgress God’s law, and God, who by definition cannot transgress Himself no matter what He does, has already been stated several times.

    “Rather, the inerrancy of the Bible if often deduced from the attributes of God, Gospel writer’s track record of reliability, and the Spirit’s witness.”

    I disagree. First of all, where do we get the attributes of God from? (Scripture.) I’m not sure what you mean by the Gospel writer’s track record of reliability. The Spirit’s witness convinces us of the inerrancy of the Bible, and causes us to believe Scripture, but this is not the same as deducing the proposition, “The Bible Alone is the Word of God.” Deductions must be derived from other propositional statements.

    “One may have a great deal of confidence of their salvation. Scripture seems to encourage such confidence based upon the Holy Spirit’s work in us…”

    I completely agree, and I certainly do have a great deal of confidence in my own salvation. I believe that this assurance is granted me by the Holy Spirit. I only mean to say that I cannot check Patrick T. McWilliams’ salvation by Scripture, because my name is nowhere written in it. And as I said, many sadly have great confidence that they are on their way to heaven, and they even believe that it is the Holy Spirit that is convincing them of that, but they are wrong. Thus we cannot *infallibly* know our own salvation, as we can know that Jesus was born of a virgin. That being said, I won’t quibble over words with someone who exclaims “I know I’m saved!” This is because everyday conversation is not always so very specifically technical about the use of the word “know” as I am being in this conversation.

    “The point that was to be self-evident was that if human agents determined one another in such a way, the determiner would be guilty, not the determined. (I did not intend to claim that determinism was self-evidently false).”

    Thanks for the clarification. While I agree that the scientists would be guilty, I still don’t think it is self-evident. Perhaps you mean “obvious” rather than self-evident, although I’d still disagree, obviously 😛

    “Based upon a presumed agreement on this, I argued that there are no justifying circumstances which make God’s decree morally different from that of the scientists. To ground the difference between God and the scientists in God’s superior authority is fallacious. There is no reason whatsoever to think that might makes right.”

    I 100% disagree. God’s simply being God justifies all His actions. I challenge you to show, using logical syllogism, how that is “fallacious.”

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  40. Patrick,

    [The scientist analogy assumes that if the scientists are deemed unjust, therefore it would be unjust for God to perform a similar action. This is a non sequitur, as my example of God taking revenge demonstrates.]

    There is a significant difference between God taking revenge and God holding persons responsible for evil actions He determined. Consider the following:

    I. God can determine that Moses kill an Egyptian

    God has the sovereign authority to do this; we do not. We are in agreement on this point. This appears, to me, to be on the level of the revenge example. What troubles me is this statement:

    II. God can determine that Moses *murder* an Egyptian.

    The problem here is that the action is immoral for the individual committing it, yet he did only that which God decreed. If God decrees that a person commit an action, and God cannot sin, the action ought not to be a sin either. Where and when does it become murder? There is no plausible starting place other than the mind of God! It is important to remember that God determines man’s thoughts, and therefore any appeal to man’s wicked intent is nullified. Man simply thinks what God has determined him to think. Rather than thoughts that are holy, righteous, and just, this view has God’s mind become the starting place for every evil deed and every sinister attitude as well. You simply cannot dismiss the difference between the analogies.

    [I 100% disagree. God’s simply being God justifies all His actions. I challenge you to show, using logical syllogism, how that is “fallacious.”]

    I. God is morally perfect
    II. Having thoughts of iniquity is an imperfection (see Isaiah 59:7)
    III. On determinism, iniquity originates in the mind of God
    IV. Therefore, determinism is incompatible with a morally perfect God

    Regarding the Spirit’s witness, I have no disagreement with your statements about the confidence we may have in our salvation. It would be too lengthy a deviation to discuss my point about deducing biblical inerrancy, and I do not need to in order to maintain my argument. My point about apparent contradictions weakening the case for Scripturalism was not addressed at all.

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  41. Clifton,

    “There is a significant difference between God taking revenge and God holding persons responsible for evil actions He determined. … You simply cannot dismiss the difference between the analogies.”

    I fully understand the difference. My *only* point was to demonstrate that the proposition “If it’s wrong for man to do, it’s wrong for God to do” is false. You agreed to this when you said,

    “I. God can determine that Moses kill an Egyptian
    God has the sovereign authority to do this; we do not. We are in agreement on this point.”

    That was my entire point in bringing up the revenge example. I didn’t mean for it to positively prove my whole position; just to show that just because it is wrong for man to perform an act, *it does not necessarily follow* that it is wrong for God to perform that act.

    “If God decrees that a person commit an action, and God cannot sin, the action ought not to be a sin either.”

    Assuming that, in this case, by “decrees” you mean “causes” and not “commands,” I simply ask: Why?

    “Where and when does it become murder?”

    If it violates God’s law/commands for mankind.

    “Rather than thoughts that are holy, righteous, and just, this view has God’s mind become the starting place for every evil deed and every sinister attitude as well.”

    This begs the question, assuming your entire point, that for God to decree that a man sin, would be unholy, unrighteous, and unjust for God to do. You have not yet demonstrated why it would be unjust for God to do such.
    Regarding your syllogism, hopefully you won’t mind if I exchange the word “iniquity” for the synonym “sin.” Assuming you don’t object, let’s look at the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

    “Q. 14. What is sin?
    A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”

    It is a logical impossibility, akin to a square circle, for God to not conform and/or transgress His law, for He is not bound by His law given to man. Thus, whatever you meant by III, it cannot be true that God commits iniquity, thus God does not have iniquitous thoughts as in II, thus IV is false.

    “My point about apparent contradictions weakening the case for Scripturalism was not addressed at all.”

    I did not mean to ignore any of your points. Could you clarify which contradictions you are referring to? Forgive me if I’m just being dense on this point…

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  42. I am reading John L Girardeau’s Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism. I found this quote quite devstating to the Arminian objection against arbitrariness, responsibility and God’s justice:

    “The Calvinist says, God finds men already disobedient and condemned, and leaves some of them in the condition of disobedience and condemnation to which by their own avoidable act they had reduced themselves. The Arminian represents the Calvinist as saying, God decrees to reject some of mankind from eternal salvation, and their disobedience follows as a necessary consequence. That is to say, if the language mean anything, God’s decree of reprobation causes the disobedience of some men, and then dooms them to eternal punishment for that disobedience. But who would deny that to be unjust.” pg. 186.

    This is precisely the argument that I have read from the best Arminian and Eastern Orthodox apologists. This answers their objection from arbitrariness and responsibility. Clifton, I will now accept your resignation from semi-pelagianism.

    Drake

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  43. I think this is what I have been getting at with the internal volition thing and yes I would add that to Clark’s understanding of responsibility. Preterition is the historic view of man’s reprobation and this view posits man’s internal volition to reject God as the basis and condition of condemnation. By cause Girardeau is refering to the immediate cause. God is the cause of everything but not the immediate cause of everything. God’s decree of reprobation ultimately causes the disobedience of some men but not immediately. Man’s depraved nature is the immediate occasion that God uses to cause them to disobey. God cannot immediately be involved with evil, Clark was very clear about that.

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  44. “God cannot immediately be involved with evil, Clark was very clear about that.”

    My understanding was that Clark insisted that God was not the Author of sin, i.e. God could not sin. I think to say that God cannot immediately cause someone to sin is to open oneself up to the criticism: Why does it matter whether God acted immediately/mediately, if He still caused the action? Clifton brought up this criticism in our last conversation, if I remember correctly.

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  45. “Why does it matter whether God acted immediately/mediately, if He still caused the action?”

    Because that is the defintion of author. Immediate agency is the definition of authorship. I believe you will find Clark dealing with the issue of mediate and immediate agency quite often in that treatise.

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  46. “If you were to use the phrase, “God immediately causing sin,” would you mean “God sinning”? If so, then I think I just misunderstood you earlier.”

    No. It would mean that God immediately causes another person to sin. God can cause someone to sin, and be in keeping with his attributes, just not immediately.

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  47. Patrick,
    “This begs the question, assuming your entire point, that for God to decree that a man sin, would be unholy, unrighteous, and unjust for God to do.”

    You’ve misunderstood the syllogism I presented at its most crucial point: I am not restating that it would be wrong for God to decree certain actions; I am arguing that evil acts originate in the mind of God. Logically prior to God issuing the decree, He conceives “I shall make Moses commit murder”. The thought to murder does not originate in the mind of Moses. Moses may indeed conceive of murdering the Egyptian, but he ultimately does so because God decreed that would. God does not initially conceive of a justified killing of the Egyptian by Moses, but an unjustified one. If He conceived of a justified killing, Moses ought not be guilty of murder, since he has no agency of himself with which he may desire anything God has not decreed (This is my answer to your why question). My only point in this premise is that the origin of the particular sin that comes to pass is in God’s mind.

    A second reason for thinking that this premise is true lies within God’s omniscience. God knows only and all true propositions. This means that He must know whether His initial conception of Moses killing the Egyptian would actualize as murder according to His law. In other words, God cannot fail to know that His decree will result in Moses murdering the Egyptian. Thus, God must conceive that He will have Moses commit murder. Thus murder originates in the mind of God.

    “Could you clarify which contradictions you are referring to?”

    I’m not referring to any particular apparent contradiction. Rather, my suggestion is that apparent contradictions seem to make Scripturalism less obviously true. For example, (and there is no need to answer this) why do each of the gospels report that different numbers and differently named women visit Jesus’ tomb on the Sunday He has was raised? It seems that one must either answer every apparent contradiction in order to be rationally justified in maintaining Scripturalism, or he must deduce biblical inerrancy from other, more obvious premises. But to do the latter abandons Scripturalism as I understand it and the former will not be sufficiently convincing to prove that God wrote the Bible since inductive reasoning does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion.

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  48. Drake,

    “No. It would mean that God immediately causes another person to sin. God can cause someone to sin, and be in keeping with his attributes, just not immediately.”

    I think you have misread Clark. I’m fairly certain Clark argued that God could not be the immediate cause of sin, i.e. God Himself could not sin. I believe that, for Clark, God immediately causing a man to sin would be understood as God *mediately* causing sin – by means of the man.

    If you are correct in your reading of Clark, then I think that opens up Clark’s theory to Clifton’s criticism. Why can’t God directly cause a man to sin? This would still place the man as the secondary cause of the sin.

    It’s completely possible that I have misread Clark, I suppose. Unfortunately I don’t have access to my books at the moment; perhaps you could supply some quotes from G&E:TPS to shed some light on the matter? Also, any comments from possible lurkers who have read Clark on the matter would be awesome.

    Clifton, I’ll get back to you when I have more time, which may not be until Monday. I hope you don’t mind the slow pace.

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  49. Clifton,

    Ok, yes, God is the first cause of everything, including sin. If sin happens, it is because it is ultimately the result of God’s eternal decree that it happen. However, you can’t force that into Isaiah 59:7. That verse refers to “thoughts of iniquity.” Well, even you would admit that God thinks about iniquity, at least that He understands that it exists, and He intends to punish it. Yet you obviously do not think this is wrong for God to have such “thoughts of [concerning] iniquity.”

    The people in Isaiah 59:7 are understood to be planning their own sins, or else having thoughts that are sinful in themselves. This is impossible for God. Your unspoken, question-begging, assumed premise is that *it is morally wrong for God to decree that man sin.* This is the only way you can make the leap from III to IV. Think about it: Who is claiming that God is iniquitous? Not me! For “sin to originate in the mind of God,” i.e. God decreeing that man sin, is not sinful for man to do. This is an unspoken premise that you have inserted, perhaps unconsciously, between III and IV.

    “It seems that one must either answer every apparent contradiction in order to be rationally justified in maintaining Scripturalism, or he must deduce biblical inerrancy from other, more obvious premises.”

    I’m not sure why you think this. A Scripturalist treats the “apparent contradictions” in Scripture the way anyone else who believes in the complete inerrancy of Scripture does. In fact, the Scripturalists I know all take such issues even more serious than most other professing Christians, many of whom simply deny inerrancy, or embrace “paradox” as somehow essential to the Christian faith.

    “But to do the latter abandons Scripturalism as I understand it and the former will not be sufficiently convincing to prove that God wrote the Bible since inductive reasoning does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion.”

    You’re not understanding the very point of Scripturalism. We do not try to “prove that God wrote the Bible;” we assume it as our axiom, our first premise.

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  50. This is from Religion, Reason and Revelation, pages 237-240

    “Let it be unequivocally said that this view certainly makesGod the cause of sin. God is the sole ultimate cause of everything…One is permitted to ask, however, whether the phrase ’cause of sin’ is the equivalent of the phrase ‘author of sin.’…God is not the author of this book…but he is the ultimate cause…I am the author. Authorship therefore is one kind of cause, but there are other kinds. THE AUTHOR OF A BOOK IS ITS IMMEDIATE CAUSE; GOD IS THE ULTIMATE CAUSE…Is God the immediate cause of sin? Or more clearly, Does God commit sin?”

    First I want to point out that this is in the context of him causing someone else to sin. From the later part of this page he makes this clear because Paul forbid su to cause someone else to sin and Clark says on pg. 240, “True it is that if a man a created being should cause or try to cause another man to sin, this attempt would be sinful.” So I think I read him spot on.

    Clark says on pg. 239 “He [God] is not sinful because in the first place whatever God does is just and right.” Agreed but why? he continues, “It is just and right simply in virtue of the fact that he does it.” This is nominalism and I reject it. God’s attributes which I understand as his thought affirmations are the basis of right and wrong.

    He rejects the idea that God permits sin as a mere permission to an independent force, and that is ok if he acknowledges that God is not actively and immediately forcing people to sin he is preterizing them, which causes them to sin.

    From reading other parts of his bookon the Atonement he seems to say that creation was necessary according to God’s nature which is Origenist heresy. He seemed to make many of the same mistakes that Rutherford made and the christian religion then just becomes based on will ad extra. I also do not think that he understood the doctrine of preterition.

    Clark was the master of epistemology and metaphysics but his theology books are good but not world class like his philosophy was. Very narrowly read in my opinion on theology (Gerety, Robins, RedBeetle and Cheung did ot fall far from the tree) though his book on the trinity denies the western construction of the trinty (good idea) and goes back to the greek construction, which in my opinion is correct. His book on the Trinity is his best theology book IMO.

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  51. Drake, you might want to read Clark’s book again. Those quotes don’t demonstrate your interpretation of Clark at all; on the contrary, they support mine. Observe:

    “… Is God the immediate cause of sin? Or, more clearly, Does God commit sin?“(R,R & R; p. 240).

    Note that for Clark, God being the immediate cause of sin (Note further that Clark does not say “man’s sin,” but rather only “sin”) can be reworded as God sinning. This alone is enough to demonstrate that Clark thought God could cause a man to sin however He wished, because in any case, the man would be the one sinning, thus God would not be the immediate cause of sin. But I’ll go further:

    “By definition God cannot sin. At this point it must be particularly pointed out that God’s causing a man to sin is not sin. There is no law, superior to God, which forbids him to decree sinful acts” (p.240).

    Note that Clark does not qualify his second sentence by inserting the word “indirectly” or “mediately” before the word “causing”. For Clark, it does not matter how God causes a man to sin, for, as I have stated, in any case, the man would be the one sinning, thus God would not be the immediate cause of sin. But I’ll go still further:

    “True it is that if a man, a created being, should cause or try to cause another man to sin, this attempt would be sinful. The reason is plain. The relation of one man to another is entirely different from the relation of God to any man. God is the creator; man is a creature” (p. 240).

    Again, note that it does not matter for Clark if God is one “step” away from causing man to sin; the sin is still mediately caused, by the very fact that the man is the one committing sin. Clark’s whole point in the section is that God *Himself* cannot sin, not that He cannot directly cause *a man* to sin. So when you say,

    “First I want to point out that this is in the context of him causing someone else to sin. From the later part of this page he makes this clear because Paul forbid su to cause someone else to sin and Clark says on pg. 240, ‘True it is that if a man a created being should cause or try to cause another man to sin, this attempt would be sinful.’ So I think I read him spot on.”

    … you’re simply performing eisegesis in thinking that Clark is also saying that it would be sin for GOD to directly cause a man to sin! This is the exact opposite of Clark’s point, and Clark is as crystal-clear as ever in his explanation. In case there was any doubt as to his position, Clark continues:

    “And the relation of a man to the law is equally different from the relation of God to the law. What holds in the one situation does not hold in the other. God has absolute and unlimited rights over all created things. [But He can’t directly cause them to sin? Don’t think so… -PTMcW] Of the same lump he can make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor. The clay has no claims on the potter. Among men [not God -PTMcW], on the contrary, rights are limited” (pp. 240-241).

    You say,

    “Clark says on pg. 239 ‘He [God] is not sinful because in the first place whatever God does is just and right.’ Agreed but why? he continues, ‘It is just and right simply in virtue of the fact that he does it.’ This is nominalism and I reject it. God’s attributes which I understand as his thought affirmations are the basis of right and wrong.”

    Assertion, and probable hair-splitting. God is just by definition, thus all His actions are necessarily just. Come on now Drake.

    “He rejects the idea that God permits sin as a mere permission to an independent force, and that is ok if he acknowledges that God is not actively and immediately forcing people to sin he is preterizing them, which causes them to sin. … He seemed to make many of the same mistakes that Rutherford made and the christian religion then just becomes based on will ad extra. I also do not think that he understood the doctrine of preterition.”

    First time I’ve heard you claim disagreement with Rutherford! Anyway, preterition asserts that God “passes over” or “permits” people to sin, which Clark (along with Calvin & WCF, etc.) rejects. “Preterization” doesn’t cause sin; it allows it to happen! If I watch Plato walk across the room, knowing his intention, and he proceeds to backhand Aristotle, and I don’t intervene to stop him, I haven’t caused the action, but I’ve only allowed it. My “preterization” didn’t cause Plato’s act of agression. This is why I, along with Clark, Calvin, and the WCF, reject the invention of preterization. I also do not think that you understand the doctrine of preterition. Never before have I heard someone speak of preterition as “causing” anything… the whole purpose of inventing that doctrine was to prevent God as being the cause at all!

    Your last paragraph is your own opinion, which you’re entitled to. Associating Clark with Origen is just abusive assertion. If it doesn’t pertain to the conversation at hand, don’t bring it up. If it does, you had best support your assertions, because from what I’ve seen here and at God’s Hammer, I don’t trust your reading of anyone.

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  52. “Note that for Clark, God being the immediate cause of sin (Note further that Clark does not say “man’s sin,” but rather only “sin”) can be reworded as God sinning”

    >>EXACTLY MY POINT! He just said that authorship means immediate cause, exactly what God cannot be.

    “This alone is enough to demonstrate that Clark thought God could cause a man to sin ”

    >>No argument. I never said that he couldn’t be the cause just not the immediate agent.

    “Note that Clark does not qualify his second sentence by inserting the word “indirectly” or “mediately” before the word “causing”.”

    >>He just did as you just admitted to.

    “For Clark, it does not matter how God causes a man to sin, for, as I have stated, in any case, the man would be the one sinning, thus God would not be the immediate cause of sin”

    >>He just said that God cannot be the author of sin which means immediate cause. Can you read Pat?

    “Clark’s whole point in the section is that God *Himself* cannot sin, not that He cannot directly cause *a man* to sin”

    >>That has been the whole point all along. The authorship issue begins this section and that is the sin that God cannot do., You just said: “Note that for Clark, God being the immediate cause of sin (Note further that Clark does not say “man’s sin,” but rather only “sin”) can be reworded as God sinning” and now you are saying that “Clark’s whole point..is not that He cannot directly cause a man to sin”

    Then you say, “you’re simply performing eisegesis in thinking that Clark is also saying that it would be sin for GOD to directly cause a man to sin!” I am saying what you admitted to.

    You are contradicting yourself!

    ““And the relation of a man to the law is equally different from the relation of God to the law. What holds in the one situation does not hold in the other. God has absolute and unlimited rights over all created things”

    >>This contradicts nothing I have said. God can be a mediate cause to sin while if men do this they are sinning. God has the prerogative to do this. You are getting desperate to find something wrong with what I said and you’re failing big time.

    “Assertion, and probable hair-splitting. God is just by definition, thus all His actions are necessarily just. Come on now Drake.”

    >>Turriten says,
    “The will can be called the primary rule of justice either intrinsically or extrinsically…In the former sense, his will is regulated by his justice; in thelatter sense, the justice in us is regulated by nothing else than his will…But with respect to God, the will cannot always be called the first rule of justice. It is a rule in those things which have only a free and positive goodness, but not in those things which have essential goodness…For in the latter, God’s will is regulated, not indeed extrinsically but intrinsically (viz. BY HIS MOST HOLY NATURE). Hence it has been well said that certain things are good because God wills them…but that God wills others because they are just and good per se in their own nature…”
    Institutes
    Vol 1, pg. 233, Third Topic, The Will of God, xviii

    “Anyway, preterition asserts that God “passes over” or “permits” people to sin, which Clark (along with Calvin & WCF, etc.) rejects.”

    >>WCF 3. VII. The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, TO PASS BY, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.

    If the nature of the one you pass by is depraved the passing by is not a mere p[ermission it is an ordination a point you still do not understand. You have misrepresented the confession and Clark.

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  53. I must say that your view of God, grace and nature/will and preterition sounds to me like you have been brainwashed by the hyper calvinism of Herman Hoeksema.

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  54. Patrick,

    I apologize for my delay in replying (I work all weekend). Also, thank you for your interactions with Drake; you have essentially argued my case against his view for me, especially concerning preterition.

    [The people in Isaiah 59:7 are understood to be planning their own sins, or else having thoughts that are sinful in themselves. This is impossible for God. Your unspoken, question-begging, assumed premise is that *it is morally wrong for God to decree that man sin.* ]

    I have no such assumed premise. It seems that before God decrees (or causes) sin to occur, He must think (and plan) the sin. If this is the case, then sin originates not in God’s decree but in His plan. It is only possible for man to “plan his own sin” if he has libertarian freedom, if you mean to suggest that God did not cause man’s planning. You reject such freedom, and therefore you attribute man’s plans to God. Thus, God plans every sin that comes to pass. *Here is where I get my moral perception* The “thoughts of iniquity” described in Isaiah 59:7 may be better understood as intentions or plans, as I agree that on my view God has conscious awareness of sin before it happens. This is precisely my point however. Having intentions or plans of sin is considered a moral imperfection according to Scripture, yet God doing this is an unavoidable implication of determinism. The only difference is the non-propositional knowledge, in which God plans that, for example, “Moses will murder the Egyptian” whereas Moses plans “I will murder the Egyptian”. This distinction is irrelevant, however, because Isaiah 59:7 does not specify conditions in its condemnation of those who conceive of iniquity.

    It seems then to claim that God is still not rendered morally imperfect on determinism because God is morally perfect by necessity, is to commit the fallacy of special pleading, by which I mean “an argument that ignores all unfavorable evidence”(answers.com). It is possible to maintain that God is morally perfect by definition, but one cannot then attribute to Him all manner of despicable intentions. How do you maintain that planning to cause persons to sin is morally acceptable apart from appealing to God’s nature? What set of circumstances might make this morally acceptable for anyone else?

    [You’re not understanding the very point of Scripturalism. We do not try to “prove that God wrote the Bible;” we assume it as our axiom, our first premise.]

    I’m aware of this, and I won’t take issue with an assertion that this is why you confess Scripture to be true. However, I wonder why you would assert this premise if defending it requires a series of more difficult premises to prove. If you must argue either inductively or deductively to support your axiom, doesn’t that mean that your premises in defense of biblical inerrancy are your true starting point? Further, there seem to be a number of hidden premises for one to transition from the statement “The Bible is God’s Word” to “We must derive all truths from Scripture”.

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  55. Drake,

    “He just said that God cannot be the author of sin which means immediate cause. Can you read Pat?”

    Try to play nice, ok? I’ll try to clarify, just to make sure we’re not just talking past one another:
    God’s being the immediate cause of sin means there is no “mediate,” i.e.
    God->Sin.
    However, God->Man->Sin, which I have been wording as “God directly causing *a man to* sin,” would not be considered as God being the immediate cause of sin; the man would be its immediate cause.

    Does that sound good to you? I’m honestly trying to understand you here. Sometimes it sounds like we are in agreement, other times in complete disagreement. Cut me some slack and drop the combative tone, brother or not.

    “God can be a mediate cause to sin while if men do this they are sinning.”

    What? How is God a mediate cause of anything? Perhaps you meant to use a different word?

    As for Turretin, I’ll answer you in your own style: I reject his premise that anything is “just and good per se in [its] own nature.” Nothing can be said to be inherently good or evil apart from God, and I’ve posted a bunch of quotes from Clark demonstrating so. Your insistence to the contrary, and quotations from Turretin, do not make it so.

    Your quotation from WCF ignores what I said. I was talking about God supposedly “permitting” people to sin, not the “passing over” people when handing out mercy. Please, pay attention to what I write before you rush to defeat me. Don’t forget WCF V iv:

    “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first Fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them…”

    “I must say that your view of God, grace and nature/will and preterition sounds to me like you have been brainwashed by the hyper calvinism of Herman Hoeksema.”

    First I was Bostonian, now I’m Hoeksemite, I’m pretty sure I hold to Origenist heresy, let’s see, Eutychian, but worst of all – dare I type it out – Baptist. I’ve never read Hoeksema. But yes, I’d say I have greatly benefited from Sean Gerety’s insights, although he and I disagree about several significant points. I’m glad to say we’re still brothers despite that fact though! 🙂

    Interesting, I don’t recall ever pointing to Baptist authors in any conversation with you. For one, I’ve read far more by Presbyterian authors than Baptist. I typically don’t go around picking fights with my Presbyterian brothers; I tend to believe we’re on the same team, and I don’t see the point in irritating raw nerves.

    Let me get on a soapbox for a sec and make something very clear: I love theology, philosophy, logic, etc. I love discussions of God, whether they be with like-minded believers, not-so-like-minded believers, or unbelievers. I think it’s possible to do so without abusive ad hominem, provocation, belittling one’s opponent, etc. When this stuff comes up, it’s just not fun anymore.

    Don’t get me wrong, heresy is real, and it needs to be addressed. Accurate name-calling is a virtue when it comes to exposing wolves in sheep’s clothing. But if we’re not dealing with ravenous wolves, I certainly think polite disagreement is possible without calling our opponent’s literacy or mental capacity into question.

    I also know that I am sometimes guilty of falling into this behavior, and for that I apologize.

    Clifton and I are able to continue this conversation because we treat each other with respect, despite incredibly strong opposition to the other’s view. We both may feel like we’re beating a dead horse at times, but as long as the other is still interested, we keep talking. Even if I never succeed in winning Clifton to my view, I have benefited from the exchange because he has sharpened my arguments and forced me to approach issues from all angles to see chinks in my own armor. He has graciously admitted when he has been wrong, multiple times.

    If there is anyone reading & commenting on this blog who cannot bring themselves to maintain a civil attitude of respect toward their opponents, he or she can feel free to spend their time elsewhere.

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  56. Clifton,

    “Also, thank you for your interactions with Drake; you have essentially argued my case against his view for me, especially concerning preterition.”

    If I understand Drake’s view correctly, it is open to criticisms you have raised in this thread and our last conversation. However, each time Drake posts I am more confused as to whether or not he agrees with Clark or rejects him on this point, as well as whether or not he and I are talking past each other at certain points.

    “You reject such freedom, and therefore you attribute man’s plans to God.”

    Not so, as I quoted WCF earlier, man’s will is intact and inviolated. Man is not a robot; he has a will, and he can and does plan his own sin.

    “The only difference is the non-propositional knowledge, in which God plans that, for example, “Moses will murder the Egyptian” whereas Moses plans “I will murder the Egyptian”. This distinction is irrelevant, however, because Isaiah 59:7 does not specify conditions in its condemnation of those who conceive of iniquity.”

    You prove too much. When God planned for Judas to betray Christ, was God guilty of wrongdoing because He “conceived of [Judas’] iniquity?” How do you reconcile your argument from Isaiah 59:7 with what is said about Herod’s & Pilate’s sin in Acts 4:27-28?

    “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”

    You say,

    “It is possible to maintain that God is morally perfect by definition, but one cannot then attribute to Him all manner of despicable intentions. How do you maintain that planning to cause persons to sin is morally acceptable apart from appealing to God’s nature? What set of circumstances might make this morally acceptable for anyone else?”

    Contrary to Drake’s Turretin quote, acts are neither good nor despicable in and of themselves. Their moral status depends on how they relate to God’s revealed commands. The reason everything God does is just is because there is no law for Him to break. He cannot be despicable, just as He cannot create a square circle, or a rock that He cannot lift. These things do not -cannot logically – exist. Do you still see no distinction between creatures under the law, and the Creator/Lawgiver Who must give account to no one?

    “I wonder why you would assert this premise if defending it requires a series of more difficult premises to prove. If you must argue either inductively or deductively to support your axiom, doesn’t that mean that your premises in defense of biblical inerrancy are your true starting point?”

    The Axiom is a rather loaded one. It assumes the truth of all Scripture. Thus, Biblical inerrancy is assumed in the Axiom itself, “The Bible Alone is the Word of God.” I offer Scriptural support for the Axiom, not to prove the Axiom, but to demonstrate its consistency and logical coherence. One example is that the Bible never gives proofs for God’s existence; He is assumed, from the first sentence of Scripture. So also the Scripturalist Axiom assumes the existence of God by including Him in the Axiom.

    “Further, there seem to be a number of hidden premises for one to transition from the statement “The Bible is God’s Word” to “We must derive all truths from Scripture”.”

    I may have just cleared this up in my last paragraph, but just to be as clear as possible: The Axiom assumes the truth of all Scripture, including such passages as Colossians 2:3, 8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and others that I’ve quoted which stress the completeness and sufficiency of Scriptural revelation in opposition to all other forms of so-called wisdom. Assuming my interpretation of these verses is correct of course, then the Axiom assumes the truth of these verses, including the proposition “We must derive all (knowable) truths from Scripture.” Does that help?

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  57. >>I clearly denied bare permission.
    I said, “If the nature of the one you pass by is depraved the passing by is not a mere p[ermission it is an ordination a point you still do not understand. You have misrepresented the confession and Clark.”
    In reference to the WCF: You clearly denied that the WCF asserts a passing over. You said: “First time I’ve heard you claim disagreement with Rutherford! Anyway, preterition asserts that God “passes over” or “permits” people to sin, which Clark (along with Calvin & WCF, etc.) rejects”

    How is that remotely not paying attention to what you write?

    “If I understand Drake’s view correctly”

    >>You don’t and neither does Clifton and its not thathard to get.
    “it is open to criticisms”

    >>That is for you to show; so far it hasn’t been done.

    “God’s being the immediate cause of sin means there is no “mediate,” i.e.
    God->Sin.

    However, God->Man->Sin, which I have been wording as “God directly causing *a man to* sin,” would not be considered as God being the immediate cause of sin; the man would be its immediate cause.”

    >>In reference to david numbering Israel: One passage said the Lord hardened his heart the other passage said Satan hardened his heart. So in this case God>Satan>David. Here Satan is the immediate occasion/author. But God “put him up to it.”

    “2 Chron 18: 19″The LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. 20″Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘How?’ 21″He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.”

    >>So here it’s God>Lying Spirit>Prophet. Here the lying spirit is the author. God is the ultimate cause of all but he is ot the immediate occasion/immediate agent or author of the sin. Now in 1 Cor 8 You have: Strong Brother eating Meat offered to idol> Weak brother’s Ignorance>Scandalized Weak brother. Here the ultimate cause is the strong christian. Here this is a sin while God can do this all day long and it’s not a sin, why, for the exact reasons that Clark addresses.
    In both cases the strong brother and God are using 2nd agents to perform a certain immediate action. This was the sense of what I said by mediate cause. Same as ultimate cause.

    “Nothing can be said to be inherently good or evil apart from God”

    >>And you have missed the point just like the other pat did on the God’s hammer blog a few months ago. I am not positing as Turriten was not positing inherent goodness outside of God, but essential attributes inside of God. Not justice in the abstract external to God but essential justice inside of God. This is Clark’s mistake in his book on the atonement. The same mistake that Rutherford made and Owen ate his lunch over in Dissertation on Divine Justice. But just like Pat you are probably going to give me these silly arguments without having read a page on this issue and turn Christianity into a muslim ad extra religion.
    Have you ever read the issues concerning Origen’s heresy and how his views of the nature and will of God led him to universalism? I suggest you do. Read Joseph P Farrell’s Free Choice in Maximus the Confessor. The problem he had is the same one you and Clark have. You see no distinction between the essential nature in God and God’s will. This leaves you with the same problem Origen had, you make creation a necessary act of God’s nature. Therefore, in order for God to be good he must create. Then in order for God to be good he must cause evil as it is a necessary immutable decree of God. Therefore, you have this pagan dualism in God where the good is dependant on the evil. Huge problems.
    I seriously suggest you get out of the mindset that American Reformed people are the only people worth reading. I have run into the same issues with my Presbytery. The Western view of the Trinity and in some part God is simply wrong. It was Augustine’s speculation and its loaded with Neoplatonic nonsense. I think Clark caught this and his construction puts us back in line with the original Cappadocian view that I suggest you read, its called Monarchianism. That was the view that defeated the Arians and it needs to be re-emphasized. The whole idea that God’s will cannot be distinguished from his nature is key and it’s quite a problem for the scholastic view of simplicity that you are clearly operating off of. I am still looking for some place where Clark deals with the issue of simplicity in detil but i don’t think he wrote on it.

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  58. Patrick,

    [You prove too much. When God planned for Judas to betray Christ, was God guilty of wrongdoing because He “conceived of [Judas’] iniquity?” How do you reconcile your argument from Isaiah 59:7 with what is said about Herod’s & Pilate’s sin in Acts 4:27-28?

    “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”]

    I’m glad you feel that I’ve proved something. 🙂 First, to state that the crucifixion was God’s plan that all parties involved commit sin is an oversimplification. Pilate is found Jesus innocent (John 19:4, Luke 23:4), stated that Jesus was the Jewish king (John 19:19-22), and was innocent of Jesus’ blood (Matthew 27: 24). Herod also found Jesus not guilty (Luke 23:15). The Israelites and Judas were under the influence of Satan (John 8:44; 13:2) and thus it was his will that iniquity be committed, not necessarily God’s. God’s plan was that our iniquity be laid on Jesus, which He accomplished through free agents who acted against His will.

    Also, it is important to remember that Isaiah 59:7 speaks of condemning these workers of iniquity, yet the situation regarding Christ is about salvation. God did not ordain Christ’s crucifixion so that He could subsequently judge the parties responsible; this was to make salvation from sin possible. John 3:17 puts it nicely:

    John 3:17 (New American Standard Bible)

    17″For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

    [Not so, as I quoted WCF earlier, man’s will is intact and inviolated. Man is not a robot; he has a will, and he can and does plan his own sin.]

    I agree that man is not a robot, but that does not mean that determinism does not remove man’s ability to plan sin independent of God. Just saying that God’s determination of everything and man’s will are compatible does not make them so. On this view, the defeater to such an assertion is that anything man does, thinks, or senses have already been determined, and thus God is the only agent in the universe making decisions are deciding attitudes about life’s situations. Human beings are merely the instrument through whom God acts.

    [The reason everything God does is just is because there is no law for Him to break.]

    That doesn’t follow; just because someone cannot be punished, that does not make them morally perfect by default. Again, this seems to be little more than special pleading.

    [The Axiom assumes the truth of all Scripture, including such passages as Colossians 2:3, 8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and others that I’ve quoted which stress the completeness and sufficiency of Scriptural revelation in opposition to all other forms of so-called wisdom. Assuming my interpretation of these verses is correct of course, then the Axiom assumes the truth of these verses, including the proposition “We must derive all (knowable) truths from Scripture.” Does that help?]

    This helps clarify what your Axiom is, a subject of some uncertainty for me during our previous conversation. But that was not my point in this one. I’m asking why you would adopt such an Axiom. With no evidence for the Axiom, it is at most a mere true belief. To give an example, suppose I believe that, in the past 25 years, there have been 9,827 people named “John” born in New York City. How does such a belief warrant acceptance? I did not survey households in New York City, nor is it based upon deductive reasoning; I’ve just asserted my random belief. I may be able to make a number of verified, true statements based upon this Axiom, but unless I can give some reason to believe it is true, I am not warranted in accepting it. I am especially irrational in accepting the belief if some defeater is presented against it. Suppose a survey was conducted stating that in fact over 24,000 people named John were born in New York City over the past 25 years. I could attempt to discredit the survey and give counter arguments, but I have no independent reason to accept my prior belief. Back to Scripturalism, what inclines you to believe your Axiom? If nothing does, then you have, at most, a mere true belief. However, if you believe based upon the Spirit’s witness, or some deductive argument, then that is your true starting point.

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  59. Drake, I suppose you’re right. I don’t understand how a passive passing over can be understood as an active ordination.

    To clarify for the second time about my WCF quote, I said that the WCF rejects the proposition that God “passes over” or “permits” people to sin. I did *not* say that the WCF rejects the proposition that God “passes over” people when handing out divine mercy. Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough on this point. I realize you still disagree, but I’m more concerned that you understand my point than I am with your agreement.

    Regarding Clark’s view of what constitutes God being an immediate cause of sin, I am now even more sure that I am reading him correctly. I don’t know how else to possible make it clearer, so I suppose we’ll just agree to disagree. I know I’m not alone in my reading of Clark, however.

    “Turriten was not positing inherent goodness outside of God, but essential attributes inside of God. Not justice in the abstract external to God but essential justice inside of God.”

    You quoted Turretin as saying,

    “Hence it has been well said that certain things are good because God wills them…but that God wills others because they are just and good per se in their own nature…”

    Turretin certainly, and very clearly, is asserting that God wills certain things because those things are just and good in their own nature, and that this is different from certain other things, which are good because God wills them. This is plain as day.

    “But just like Pat you are probably going to give me these silly arguments without having read a page on this issue and turn Christianity into a muslim ad extra religion.”

    “Therefore, in order for God to be good he must create. Then in order for God to be good he must cause evil as it is a necessary immutable decree of God. Therefore, you have this pagan dualism in God where the good is dependant on the evil. Huge problems.”

    “I seriously suggest you get out of the mindset that American Reformed people are the only people worth reading. [etc.]”

    And, with these last statements, you forfeit your privelege to continue posting on this thread. I have neither time nor interest in chasing down and responding to such downright ridiculous, speculative assertions about my views, and even about my own reading habits, which FYI includes English, Dutch, Scottish, German, and French theologians, as well as American theologians from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, mostly Reformed authors, but certainly not limited to them. Shocking as it may be to you, I have been most heavily influenced by historic Presbyterian & Puritan theology, although I obviously have some disagreements.

    Feel free and welcome to comment on my other posts, but not this one.

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  60. Clifton,

    “God’s plan was that our iniquity be laid on Jesus, which He accomplished through free agents who acted against His will.”

    It is interesting, that if one were to define “will” in this sentence as “command” (a valid definition, although not the one you intended, I know), I would totally agree. God has a plan, and He accomplishes it, using voluntary agents.

    But perhaps you are not equating “free” with “voluntary.” But if they are free, what are they free from? Obviously not free from God’s plan, because you just said that He accomplishes His plan through the use of the agents. Also, how God can be said to freely accomplish His own “plan” by means of agents which act outside His eternal decrees is beyond my comprehension. It sounds like He got lucky that they acted according to His plan… but somehow also not according to His will…(??)

    “Also, it is important to remember that Isaiah 59:7 speaks of condemning these workers of iniquity, yet the situation regarding Christ is about salvation. God did not ordain Christ’s crucifixion so that He could subsequently judge the parties responsible; this was to make salvation from sin possible. John 3:17 puts it nicely…”

    This is beside the point. Acts 4:27-28 clearly states that God determined that Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and Jews all act against Jesus. To act against Jesus was sin, yet God determined it.

    “I agree that man is not a robot, but that does not mean that determinism does not remove man’s ability to plan sin independent of God.”

    Agreed. Nothing is independent of God.

    “Just saying that God’s determination of everything and man’s will are compatible does not make them so.”

    Also agreed, but of course you understand that I believe Scripture teaches both, and that they are compatible. Also, just saying that they are incompatible does not make them so.

    “On this view, the defeater to such an assertion is that anything man does, thinks, or senses have already been determined, and thus God is the only agent in the universe making decisions are deciding attitudes about life’s situations.”

    This is a mistaken implication. Just because God determines man’s decisions, does not mean that man does not make decisions. Philippians 2:13

    “Human beings are merely the instrument through whom God acts.”

    I’m not sure why we need the word “merely,” but we are certainly the instruments through which God acts. Philippians 2:13 again.

    “That doesn’t follow; just because someone cannot be punished, that does not make them morally perfect by default.”

    Again, morals are determined by God’s law. There is no other source of understanding morality. God is not under His law, therefore He cannot transgress His law, thus He cannot be immoral.

    “I’m asking why you would adopt such an Axiom.”

    Because there is nothing more sure than a Word from God.

    “With no evidence for the Axiom, it is at most a mere true belief.”

    Axioms do not demand evidence. What is “mere” about truth?

    “To give an example, suppose I believe that, in the past 25 years, there have been 9,827 people named “John” born in New York City. How does such a belief warrant acceptance?”

    Well first of all, I’m assuming the truth of Scripture as my axiom, not making a random arbitrary assertion originating in my own mind.

    “I may be able to make a number of verified, true statements based upon this Axiom, but unless I can give some reason to believe it is true, I am not warranted in accepting it.”

    Again, it is an Axiom, a First Principle, a Foundation of Thought, a Beginning, a Starting Place. I need not derive it from prior evidence.

    I encourage you to read Clark on Scripturalism (which he sometimes called fideism, Christian rationalism, and dogmatism; he never settled on a name for his philosophy because each of these terms carried unpleasant connotations). Crampton’s introduction is probably a good place to begin. Clark & Crampton will explain it better than I can 🙂

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  61. Patrick,

    [To act against Jesus was sin, yet God determined it.]

    As I mentioned previously, when examining the Gospels, it seems that God had no direct hand in determining the individuals you’ve mentioned to do evil. Satan put the Israelites and Judas up to their actions, and I’m not of the belief that God determines what Satan does. As we see in Job 1 and Luke 22:31, Satan may have merely received consent from God to do his own evil planning.

    [But perhaps you are not equating “free” with “voluntary.” But if they are free, what are they free from? Obviously not free from God’s plan, because you just said that He accomplishes His plan through the use of the agents.]

    Obviously I do not equate freedom with voluntarism. It doesn’t follow that just because God’s will was accomplished, the individuals had to be determined to do certain actions. The agents could be free do act apart from God’s decree and yet accomplish what He desires. God just get lucky then? It seems that Molinism provides a plausible answer to how God might cause free agents to do His will. This is from an earlier conversation on this page with David:

    “Molinism states that God has Middle Knowledge, knowledge of what free agents would do under a given circumstance. This knowledge falls between God’s natural knowledge (knowledge of all logical necessities and possibilities) and God’s free knowledge (knowledge of contingent facts). Based upon God’s Middle Knowledge, He actualizes a “possible world”. Not to be confused with another planet, a possible world is a way the universe and creatures within it might have been. There is a possible world, for instance, in which we do not have this conversation, but there is no possible world in which God does not exist. God chose to actualize this possible world because it is most compatible with His plan.”

    On this view, God would actualize a possible world in which the individuals in question freely choose to crucify Christ. This explanation is not meant to be a complete defense of Molinism; it is just to say that the Libertarian needn’t say that God just gets lucky that His will is accomplished. There are other resolutions, like Robinson’s CW-AF model, but I agree that the traditional Arminian model does not adequately address the problem of divine providence. At any rate, even if I could not provide an effective resolution as to how God might accomplish His will through free agents, that does not make determinism a successful model. Determinism still faces the problems of God’s authorship of sin and the absurdity of holding man responsible.

    [Just because God determines man’s decisions, does not mean that man does not make decisions. Philippians 2:13]

    Doesn’t the context of this passage, such as Philippians 2:12 indicate that Paul is speaking to and about believers? How does this passage become evidence that God works through everyone else in this way? The passage says “God is at work in you” not “God is working in you such that you will do only what He wills”. In fact, the latter seems refuted by verse 14 in which we are commanded “14Do all things without grumbling or disputing;” Why is Paul commanding us to behave a certain way if God will certainly work it out according to His plan as allegedly described in the verse above? To say that this passage implies that “God determines man’s decisions” is simply to read determinism into a passage that isn’t discussing it. Rather, this verse seems to speak about the way God strengthens and motivates us to act in accordance with His will, understanding that we still have a choice.

    [Again, morals are determined by God’s law. There is no other source of understanding morality. God is not under His law, therefore He cannot transgress His law, thus He cannot be immoral.]

    This is just a restatement of what you said before.

    As for Scripturalism, since you’ve referred me to other writings, I’ll leave it alone. In fact, I’m content to end the conversation now. It’s gone on for quite some time now. We’ve exhausted several of our original points. You and I will probably not agree that the other is correct anyway. Such decisions take time and reflection.

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  62. Clifton,

    “As I mentioned previously, when examining the Gospels, it seems that God had no direct hand in determining the individuals you’ve mentioned to do evil. Satan put the Israelites and Judas up to their actions, and I’m not of the belief that God determines what Satan does. As we see in Job 1 and Luke 22:31, Satan may have merely received consent from God to do his own evil planning.”

    Let me clarify and say that, although I have been arguing with Drake that God is able to directly cause men & angels to sin while remaining sinless Himself, I am not saying that He never uses mediate causes. In the vast majority of cases, God acts through the use of second causes. Thus, I have no problem with saying that Satan was one cause of the Israelites & Judas’ actions, but if you don’t think that God is the Ultimate Cause, then how can God be said to “determine” the actions of those who acted against Christ, as Acts 4:27-28 says? I don’t think we can ignore the causal nature implied here, replacing it with an act of watchful allowance.

    “The agents could be free do act apart from God’s decree and yet accomplish what He desires.”

    How can something happen that God has decreed to not happen?

    “This explanation is not meant to be a complete defense of Molinism; it is just to say that the Libertarian needn’t say that God just gets lucky that His will is accomplished.”

    Fair enough, but (and you already knew this was coming) I see no reason to accept the Molinistic view of Middle Knowledge; as I do not find any such doctrine in Scripture. On the other hand, the passages which speak about God’s control, even over man’s will (vs. zero which speak of man having a will free from God’s decree), are much clearer, although some may find them hard to swallow based on preconcieved notions of man’s will and responsibility.

    Regarding Philippians 2:12-13, regardless of whether or not it is speaking to believers, it still posits that God is exerting control over man’s will, so my point stands.

    “Why is Paul commanding us to behave a certain way if God will certainly work it out according to His plan as allegedly described in the verse above?”

    This is not being fair to what I’ve said about God using second causes. One way that God accomplishes His will is that He gives us a command, and through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, He causes us to obey. When you say that,

    “To say that this passage implies that ‘God determines man’s decisions’ is simply to read determinism into a passage that isn’t discussing it. Rather, this verse seems to speak about the way God strengthens and motivates us to act in accordance with His will, understanding that we still have a choice.”

    … you’re again ignoring the fact that I’ve always affirmed man’s ability to make choices.

    “This is just a restatement of what you said before.”

    I know, which is why I said “again.” I’m still waiting to hear how certain actions can be judged inherently good or evil apart from God’s law. So far, all you’ve done is to simply assert that they can.

    By referring you to Clark & Crampton, I wasn’t giving you the brush-off, just acknowledging my own limitations. Many have challenged Scripturalism, notably George Mavrodes (see http://www.trinityfoundation.org/new_article.php?id=2 and Clark’s reply: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/new_article.php?id=1). Reading Clark’s interactions with his critics sheds a lot of light on the subject, and if you’re interested at all in Scripturalism, even as a novelty, those works will help.

    If you want to drop the conversation for now, I won’t be offended. I would like to say that I think that this conversation was more profitable than our last, as I think perhaps we have cleared up at least some of the misunderstandings/misconceptions that were present at first. Thanks for the opportunity to flex some apologetic muscles 🙂

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  63. Pingback: What I Require Before I Debate with Someone Regarding the Neoplatonism/Origen/Divine Simplicity/Filioque/Hyper Determinist Package « Uncreated Light

  64. Patrick,

    No time to wade through all your tutelage and pupils’ replies, but keep up the good work! The ESV Isaiah 46:8-13 saith:

    “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

    “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”

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  65. The answer to the issues discussed herein lies in two areas, namely, the asymmetrical nature of good and evil and God’s use of therapeutic paradoxes to empower and enable men to respond to His Ultimatums. God decrees and controls the sin to make it turn out for good as is clearly stated in the case of the worst sin of all, the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior. At the same time the sinner requires that decree in order for him to accomplish his evil intentions which make him fully responsible even though unable to respond appropriately due to his fallen nature. Then God comes along with the ultimatum: Burn, ruin, destruction, as in the case of Nineveh, and it serves like shock therapy as Jonah suspected and did not want to move the people of Nineveh to repent. God also demands the impossible as a means of revealing the sinner’s condition and/or to bring the sinner to cry out of his or her helplessness. Clark said in his works that there are no paradoxes, but a comparison between Mt.15:21-28 and Lk. 4:16-31 reveals the reality of paradoxes which worked in one case to salvation and which worked to destruction in the other.

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  66. consider how our Lord said to His disciples, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The woman hearing that comment, and knowing that she was not a Jew, yet came before the Lord, casting herself down in worship. Then the Lord said to her, “It is not meet to cast the children’s bread to dogs.” Here you have reprobation, shock therapy, offering hope only in the size of the dogs, diminutive. The woman seizes that, realizing that the dogs could eat the crumbs that fell from the children’s table, and she pressed the reality, saying, “Truth, Lord.” Meaning that she was a dog, a reprobate, an unclean animal, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their little masters’ table.” No one would insist on feeding crumbs to the children that had fallen to the floor. Our Lord commended her faith with the term, Great. In Nazareth he spoke of Elijah helping the widow of Sidon (same area as the woman in Mt. 15 was from), but not helping any widow in Israel. Then he mentions Elisha healing the leper, Naaman, the Syrian, but doing nothing for the many lepers in Israel. The people of our Lord’s hometown were enraged by the idea that God had chosen a Gentile, by passing His chosen people, and they demonstrated that they were dogs by seeking to murder our Lord. Obviously, if Clark said there are no paradoxes, then he missed the issue in his discussion of determinism with reference to good and evil, that is, the asymmetrical problem, which opens the future to intellectual developments that will bring all the inhabitants of earth to Christ for a thousand generations as well as the inhabitants of quadrillions of planets in order to fulfill the number that cannot be numbered. John Owen in his Death of Death in the Death of Christ gives indication of the sufficiency of the sacrifice for the populations of a multitude of worlds.

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  67. Apparent contradiction and self-contradiction are different things. Besides note the matter of mystery. Did Clark and Calvin both move the paradox issue over into the mystery? Therapeutic paradoxes are therapies that are noted for helping people with especially difficult situations in their lives. Suggest the view of paradoxes seemingly advocated in Clark and Calvin originate in a limited logical approach, one that is insufficient to handle such difficulties. Indeed, in Calvin’s case, it is purely scholastic Aristotelianism. What has been overlooked and forgotten is the improvements in logic and pedagogy made by Peter Ramus whose influence in the Puritan movement as immense, foreshadowing the modern scientific method and stressing the practical part as well as making significant use of visual pictures to convey information and convince audiences. While he has been written out of the history of Western Civilization, scholars are finally beginning to become aware of his significant influence in education and theology. I remember thinking aha, when I came across the information on Ramus. Later on I worked out a more synthetical method of considering phenomena whether of the theological kind arising from its scriptural source. Suggest you investigate even on the internet the information available and get past the Jesuit Walter Ong’s examination of Ramism. As one old Puritan stated said, “The Soul of Religion is the Practical part.”

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  68. It sounds to me like you and Clark are talking about different things. What Clark rejects is the notion that Scripture contains propositions that cannot be logically reconciled *at all* by so-called “human logic,” but that somehow are “not truly contradictory” for God, as if God’s thoughts may be illogical. You seem to be describing methods of communication and operation which merely seem counter-intuitive at first blush to our fallen ways of thinking.

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  69. Suggest you study the history of Ramist philosophy. Clark’s logic seems more like Calvin’s Aristotelianism. Apparent contradictions are not meant to be reconciled; they are seemingly opposite poles meant to be held in tension in the mind, thus, enabling the believer to be balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic. The height of such viewpoint, though largely unrecognized, occurred during the periods of the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions. This is not to denigrate Clark or Calvin. In fact, I have a number of books by Clark and enjoy them as well as Calvin’s works, but the expansion of knowledge demands that we reconsider our understanding of the Holy Scripture. Simply note that the Bible is inspired by the Omniscient God and it follows that it must reflect a wisdom commensurate with such a source. Nearly fifty years ago I began to consider the matter from an intellectual viewpoint, that is, ideas thus revealed and to be considered and how they are intended to affect human behavior in a manner that glorifies God. Later, I would come to reflect upon the techniques of counseling and how they coincide with biblical tecniques or therapies. God has commanded his covenant to a thousand generations (I Chron.16:15), and the prophecy in Daniel is that the stone cut out of the mountain without human hands shall become a mountain and fill the whole earth (Dan.2). The idea of going to the stars has now been stated and since knowledge is increasing exponentially, we must look to a better understanding and grasp of the Divine Wisdom of the Omniscient God in order to cope with the new situations which we will face. All of this to have the innumerable company of the redeemed referenced in Rev.7:9 and other verses throughout the Scripture.

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  70. I haven’t seen you produce a single instance of an actual apparent contradiction in Scripture. Either Scripture makes sense or it doesn’t. Either God (and his revelation) is logical, or he isn’t. Putting a pious spin on holding contradictory propositions doesn’t make one “balanced, flexible,” etc. It makes one precisely the opposite.

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  71. Dear Sir: I have addressed you with the respect that public discussions demand, and your application of what I found by research in church history (many years of it) seems hardly to comport with the kind of conduct demanded by the Christian Faith. First, by your own stance, it would be impossible for me to produce an example. You would by your application of Aristotelian logic, the logic of Calvin, prove that there could be no apparent contradiction. It would be like telling Spurgeon, he didn’t know what he was talking about, when he spoke of never reconciling old friends, referring to Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.

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  72. Have I offended you? I agree with Spurgeon actually. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are “friends,” that is, perfectly harmonious doctrines when considered correctly — not enemies which must be held in tension. It’s hard to argue with you when you say that if I apply logic, I demonstrate your error.

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  73. You have totally misunderstood me. When I speak of being held in tension, I do not have in mind anything having to do with enemies. Ugh! The thought is reprehensible to me. The tension of which I speak is one that is desirable, a reciprocal relationship, if you wish. It enables the believer to respond appropriately to situations as they arise. When you reconsider what I tried to say about Mt.15:21-28 and Lk.4:16-31, I think you will find that I was trying to convey the invitation offered in opposites. Like the message of Jonah to Nineveh, a message of unconditional judgment with no, if you repent, God will spare your city. It is shock therapy. So with the ideas of our Lord concerning declaring that He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel so the woman would hear. Then He actually spoke His neighbors in Nazareth of Elijah ministering to a woman who was not a Jew, while by passing the many widows of Israel. And Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian, while by passing the many lepers in Israel. The woman treated it as an opportunity to worship, and the people of Nazareth acted just like the dogs of which our Lord spoke to the woman; they tried to murder the Lord.

    As to logic, think of this. Aristotle was so exalted in the Catholic Church that it was one of the reasons for the silencing of Galileo (along with the scientists of that day who were also very much a part of the process – along with the Inquisition.) Peter Ramus was one of the first logicians to break with Aristotle. The logic of the latter was supposedly able to discern truth…even when it contradicted observation and the results of experimentation. He along with many others opened the door to the scientific method, and his works were published many times between 1560 and 1650. His influence on the Puritans is well known.

    As to theology, I have no problems with believing in absolute predestination, total depravity/inability, unconditional election, limited/particular redemption, irresistible grace (both of the kind that is so wonderful one cannot resist it and of the kind which is overwhelming, an exercise of God’s sheer power), perseverance/preservation of the saints, and reprobation. As Dr. Eusden stated in his introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity (the first textbook in theology used at Harvard), “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,….” I would add so are the other doctrines.

    The theology with which we are dealing, biblical theology, is a great deep. The problem we have with Holy Scripture as one Puritan put it is with its perspicuity or, in other words, its clarity. The situation is much like that of a friend of mine who was fishing a mountain stream near Danville, Va. He looked down stream and saw a big rock on the other side and thought that would be where the trout were. He look down at the stream and figured it was about 2-3 feet deep. “After all,” he said, “I could actually see the grains of sand rolling along the bottom.” So he stepped off into the stream and nearly drowned, for it was about 18-20 feet deep. He had failed to make allowance for the magnifying power of water; its clarity was nearly his undoing. So is it with the word of God. Now all of this is simply to say there are depths to the word of God which are intended to help us cope with the exigencies of every new age and continue for a 1000 generations, anywhere from 20,000-900,000 years, reaching many planets as mankind expands to the universe, if God is so pleased to have decreed such. We do have the problem of those multitudes which cannot be numbered, innumerable as the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea shores, even the number of the redeemed in Heaven which no one can number (Rev.7:9). I dare say we might have a longer future and struggle and success than we have anticipated thus far, being so limited in our wherewithal to grasp and understand what God is saying. It is true He gives it to us as He thinks we need it. I think it was the Pilgrims’ Pastor, Rev. John Robinson who said, “Who knows what new truth is getting read to break forth from God’s word.” And that from the fellow who was invited by the Dutch to participate in the Council of Dordt which gave us the TULIP arostic, so I understand, through the English.

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  74. I still think the type of “paradox” you’re speaking of is not what Clark has in mind.

    The laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle are unavoidable. Call them Aristotelian, inadequate, etc., but even in doing so, you’re using them. They cannot, however, discover truth in a rationalistic way. That requires divine revelation. Clark wrote in many places demonstrating that while the scientific method is often extremely useful, it cannot provide us with truth.

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  75. Clarke is quite right about the scientific method being unable to provide us with truth, especially in the ultimate sense. In fact, the scientific method suffers from several problems as most science educators know. One, it is too analytical or, in the words of a preacher in another context, “we (it) suffer (s) from the paralysis of Analysis.” Two, the method is in need of a major overhaul, something to which I have given about 40 years of thought along with and among other things. As I see it, the problem is what does one do, when both the thesis and the null hypothesis are both true. Some have suggested that there can be no such thing; that such a thing is the result of a failure in the analysis. However, there is a synthetical idea, one which takes into account things which are apparently contradictory (and note: I said, “apparently.” The human mind simply is not meant to reconcile such things. In fact, it is mean to take them at face value (as Spurgeon did on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility) and experience the tension between the two as desirable rather than otherwise). I discovered this reality in church research, especially in the period from 1740-1820, during the times of the First and Second Great Awakening and the launching of the Great Century of Missions or the Modern Missionary Movement. During this period (and no doubt somewhat earlier as well for a little following this 80 year period) Sovereign Grace believers were the leaders of the Western World and, thus, of civilization. At the same time, they were the liberals of their day, truly liberal in the best sense of the word and able to work with people of many diverse viewpoints without feeling like they had compromised themselves to death.

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  76. Then again, maybe you and Clark really are talking about the same thing.

    >>”However, there is a synthetical idea, one which takes into account things which are apparently contradictory (and note: I said, “apparently.” The human mind simply is not meant to reconcile such things. In fact, it is mean to take them at face value (as Spurgeon did on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility) and experience the tension between the two as desirable rather than otherwise).”

    First of all, I think Spurgeon’s point was not that the two doctrines were irreconcilable, but rather perfectly – and logically – harmonious.

    Second, if there were such logically irreconcilable paradoxes in Scripture, how could one ever know he had found one? Perhaps what appears contradictory to your mind does not so appear to mine. Perhaps the problem lies in your reasoning, and not in the manner in which God has chosen to reveal himself.

    Case in point, I see zero “tension” between the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. I’m not sure why some theologians insist that there is some sort of “problem” or “paradox” here that must be accepted without observing how the two logically harmonize.

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  77. I probably will not be able to persuade you of the tension as a desirable thing, for you seem to have it as something undesirable. However, if you should be able to locate it, you might want to read Paul Halmos’ The Faith of Counsellors, pub. in the 60s by Shocken Books. In it he sets forth the idea of a desirable tension in the minds of counselors between being subjective and objective. Sometimes, a counselor must be objective, gathering facts, etc. At other times, he or she must be subjective, warm, supporting or confrontational as the situation demands. The tension enables the counselor to respond appropriately to a given situation. I was introduced to this work, while teaching at South Carolina State College (now a University) in 70-71, when I was finishing my Master’s thesis in intellectual history which dealt with a Baptist doctrine on ministerial qualifications from 1750-1850 and which involved education and/or illumination (a spiritual gift for ministry). I had found, when Baptists held the two in conjunction along with other doctrines of a similar nature, they were balanced, flexible, etc. This I also found to be the case with Christians in other denominations. The tension is a desirable one, not an irritant to be jettisoned. What I had found in six years of research in Church History had brought me to a conclusion of both/and for a lot of truths taught in the Bible, like, for example, verbal inspiration, involving as it does the divine and human elements, ably discussed by J. I. Packler in his Fundamentalism and the Word of God. He also covers much the same thing in his Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Halmos’ work added a further understanding. later I would discuss what I had found as an explanation for sanity and insanity with the Chairman of the Dept of Psychology at North Carolina State Univ. He said he was doing research in that area of ideas and wanted me to come and do my M.A. and Ph.D. under him, but all I wanted to do was preach. I said to my wife that I would go to SEBTS and get my D.Min. She said, “You’ll be sorry.” And I was, but God has His purposes that are higher than ours. Had I gotten the degrees in Psychology, I would not have had to get one in Counseling from Liberty (where by the way I had several Calvinists…even though they are not too friendly to that theology). It would seem that the word of God is of such depth that we cannot fathom it without both study and illumination, and such study involves other subjects as well as the Bible just as Clark and Calvin took to Aristotle’s logic. Have you read or do you know about Peter Ramus and Ramism? I noticed that you did not comment about that matter, which was a little amazing considering the rather tremendous influence he had on the Puritans and their theology.

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  78. Don’t you agree there’s a huge difference between a counselor’s need to shift approaches at appropriate times and “apparently contradictory” doctrines found in God’s revelation?

    I am unfamiliar with Ramus. I’ll have to look into his philosophy.

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  79. !!!??? Since I came upon this materials in my research which preceded the book by Halmos, what is your point? You seem overly concerned with something which might be termed a mystery, and I dare say Clark and Calvin did accept the fact that there were mysteries in the Scripture. In fact, one of them would be the incarnation of Christ. Seems that Clark had some problems with that one. Certainly, some Presbyterians thought so.

    Remember you are dealing with a writing inspired by Omniscience, and it must reflect a wisdom commensurate with such a source. Additionally, as one Puritan observed, our problem is with biblical perspicuity or clarity as we would say.

    I think you will find Peter or Petrus Ramus to be an interesting subject, if you can by the effort to silence him in human history. He is a subject of interest to intellectual historians. He was a reformation convert, and he was murdered on the third day of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

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  80. My point is that one minute you’re talking about things like shifting counseling techniques (which isn’t really a paradox at all) and the next you’re saying Scripture contains doctrines which are logically irreconcilable to the human mind. The first I can understand and readily agree with, but the second, if taken to its logical endpoint, makes Scripture incoherent. Ramus’ influence on the Puritans aside, the Westminster Confession (to which Clark subscribed) spoke of the “consent of all the parts” of Scripture. Nowhere does it mention revealed doctrines which conflict within so-called human logic.

    A mystery is either something that is revealed (as in 1 Cor 15) or something which remains unrevealed. This descriptor cannot then be used to denote incoherency in God’s Word.

    NB: This post and thread is not about Clark’s view of the Incarnation. I don’t know if you’ve read his book on the subject, but if not, I’d suggest you refrain from commenting on it (as I am doing with Ramus, for example) and thereby risking breaking the ninth commandment as so many often do

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  81. Dear Brother: You must be a young person. You are too quick to judge. First, I was talking about ideas and then how the counseling therapy known as therapeutic paradoxes seem to confirm my discoveries in church history in the climactic part known as the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions or the Modern Missionary Movement. Your denial of a paradox in either the field of ideas or of counseling seems to be based upon some other grounds having little to do with the science and history of those fields. Note again the order: first the ideas and then the counseling therapies. The ideas, I might point out, are theological, actually biblical, concepts that were the motivating factors in the period from 1740-1820 (could take in more time than I have allowed here).

    I shall have to answer your quote from the Westminster another time.

    As to Clark’s view on the incarnation, I was but referring to something on the internet by those for and those against his views on the issue. As to breaking the ninth commandment, you must remember that intention plays a great deal in the matter of law in the Christian faith. I did not consciously or knowingly intend to speak ill of Dr. Clark. After all, I have been acquainted with a number of his works for more than 40 years and like and approve of them. A friend of mine about 50 years ago, a Primitive Baptist Elder, was the only person invited to speak at a celebration of Clark’s service at Butler University and one of my neighbors was the grandson of a faculty member with Clark (but I forget his name). I have a great deal of affection for Dr. Clark and his writings, those I have read, that is. As to the other matters about Scripture, anyone can make a mistake. I know I have. We don’t all arrive with full blown knowledge and understanding of the Bible and its contents. The idea that we can understand it, because it is so clear, is a mistake to my way of thinking. The book reflects the depth of Divine Omniscience, and it is that element to which I refer in our discussion. It is not that the depth is deceptive; it is that it defies human comprehension due to the intent of the author (God the Holy Spirit). The strategies of omniscience comprehend the whole of human existence and speak to the inhabitants of every part of it. While the truth never varies, there are parts of it with particular applications which will likely be comprehended only when the persons whom it concerns discern its meaning. Too illustrate: I remember beholding a literally fulfillment of the a saying of Holy Scripture. I was once teaching a women’s study group, and we were looking at Gen.21. One of the ladies asked me in particular about verse 6. When I explained what it said, basically, simply repeating it word for word, suddenly, the whole group of ladies burst out in laughter. They had grasped the saying and its setting, e.g., old age, etc., and their laughter was a fulfillment of the very saying of Sarah. I never forgot the impression it made on me. Of course, you might not consider that to be of any consequence, but it has been with me for a quarter of a century.

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