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Do Calvinists understand Arminianism? 3

posted by xscot mcknight

Myth #2: a hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism is possible. Instead, Olson argues, the two systems are incommensurable systems of theology.
Many think they are “Calminians” but there is no such possibility — according to Olson. Now the truth of the matter is that lots think they are; Olson suggests they are being inconsistent.
The heart and soul of Calvinism is a distinctive emphasis on the sovereignty of God, especially in the outworking of salvation. God is the all-determining reality; monergism is the driving force of the system. It is all about God, not us.
Arminianism, on the other hand, denies Calvinistic monergism and opts instead for a “self-limiting God who grants free will to people by means of the gift of prevenient grace” (63). Arminianism confronts Calvinism with “an evangelical synergism that affirms a necessary cooperation between divine and human agencies in salvation” (63).
Three areas where the two systems cannot agree: unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace.
Arminians teach conditional election: it is general in scope rather than particular in application. God elects those in Christ. The scope of atonement is universal; Christ has saved all from original sin; God’s grace is prevenient but humans can resist it.
For Arminians, the “unconditional and irresistible nature of grace … seems arbitrary if not capricious” (66). Arminians believe God, in prevenient grace, creates free will and free agency, and humans can freely resist.
Olson lays his cards on the table: he thinks Calvinists and Arminians believe what they do, not simply because of exegesis, but because of perspective. What some philosophers call “blik.” This “seeing as” (perspective) does not circumvent Scripture but reveals perceived patterns in it (70).
Both systems have insurmountable problems. Edwin Palmer, a defender of Calvinism, says this: “He [the Calvinist] realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous” (71). Palmer appeals to God’s secret counsel. And Arminians stumble over how free agency can be an ability to do other than what one in fact does.
Jerry Walls: “The free will theologian cannot fully explain why some choose Christ while others do not. The Calvinist cannot tell us why or on what basis God chooses some for salvation and passes others by” (72).
The dividing line between the two systems is that God is viewed “as either (1) majestic, powerful, and controlling or (2) loving, good, and merciful” (73). This leads to the Arminian contention that “it is unthinkable that so much evil would abound if God has determined all human choices” (74).
We are back to Augustine: if God is good, he is not all-powerful; if he is all-powerful, he is not good. For many of us, the only thing that makes sense is that God gave, in his grace, humans the capacity of free agency — and that explains the chaos of the world. For many of us, we’d rather blame humans than be caught on Augustine’s horns.
Arminians believe in libertarian free will; Calvinists in some form of compatibilism. This is not an absolute free will.
Thus, the point of the chp is that you can’t be a Calminian. Those who make that claim are inevitably Arminian. Which means there are a lot more of “us” than “them.”



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Ryan

posted September 29, 2006 at 5:42 am


Scot,
I must say I am pleasantly suprised to be the first comment on the post. Wish what I had to say was more profound!
I am a big fan of George MacDonald. His view on election and grace are worlds away from both views, though he grew up a strict Calvinist. However, there are several of his views that are an interesting synergy of both, though not truly a Calminian blending. I am curious if you or any of the other folks are familiar with his views and could speak on the blending in regard to the above contention that you can blend the two. I am really not very informed about Calvinist or Arminian views so these topics have been very educational for me.



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Ryan

posted September 29, 2006 at 5:54 am


Sorry, that was supposed to read “can not blend the two” (It is bad that I am a literacy specialist and I can’t even post properly!)



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Brian

posted September 29, 2006 at 6:55 am


Scot,
This brings to mind an old story. I once heard a student say her pastor said he was a 2.5 point Calvinist. The student then asked one of your former colleagues what that meant. In classic form the professor responded, “It means he doesn’t understand the issues.” A roar of laughter filled the room.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2006 at 6:59 am


Brian,
Olson would agree. So would I.



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Josh

posted September 29, 2006 at 8:37 am


Scot- Two questions:
1. Can you, or you by way of Olson, explain how prevenient grace works? If I’m understanding correctly, prevenient grace sees two-steps to salvation: 1) prevenient grace; 2) human belief bringing special (salvific grace). I struggle to understand what exactly is â??fixedâ? in the understanding during that prevenient step that allows a person to see Christ for who he is, yet still refuse to trust in him? What would this look like? What would it look like to say: â??I can (and do) fully understand that the way to life is Christ, Iâ??d just perfer not to have it.â? Just trying to understand how a â??two-stepperâ? would explain that first step. Maybe I’m asking the unanswerable question you alluded to in the Jerry Walls quote: “The free will theologian cannot fully explain why some choose Christ while others do not.”
2. Can you mention some key passages that an Arminian would use to support the idea of prevenient grace?



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Anthony

posted September 29, 2006 at 8:48 am


If you want a great exposition on George McDonald’s views (somewhat Arminian) in light of Johnathan Edwards views (Calvinism) read “Sinners in the Hands of a Good God” by David Clotfelter. This is an excellent side by side comparison of the two. You will come away from this book with a clear understanding of the two views and hopefully better understanding of your own view. Enjoy!!



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BW

posted September 29, 2006 at 9:02 am


“Both systems have insurmountable problems.”
It stuns me that people who acknowledge this still hold onto either view. I’ve also heard people say that both Calvinism and Arminianism taken to their logical conclusions produce heresy. Why would people hold to views then that lead to the non-sensical; to that which defies the written word or common sense? And why do people think these are the only two options? Why don’t people challenge some of the philosophical assumptions held by both Calvinists and Arminians?



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Ryan

posted September 29, 2006 at 9:05 am


Thanks Anthony!
I am familiar with a lot of Edwards writings, but a comparison sounds like something that would really help. I will see if I can find it on amazon and put it on my wish list.



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Terry Tiessen

posted September 29, 2006 at 9:35 am


I agree with Roger that there is nothing in between monergism and synergism and that the two cannot be blended. In theology classes, I regularly draw a mountain on an overhead and insist that everyone lives on one side or the other. I see this choice as the great watershed question upon which everyone must make a decision and live consistently. I appreciate Roger’s plea for consistency.
So, I am naturally intrigued by BW’s suggestion that there is, in fact an alternative. I’d be happy to know whether you are saying (BW) (1) that there is a third way betweenmonergism and synergism or (2)that Arminianism and Calvinism are not the best alternatives within those two umbrella categories. (There are certainly other options on both sides of the mountain but they are not mediating points between monergism and synergism.)
In either case, I’d be interested to hear your recommendation as to the right position if you can state it concisely enough for this forum.
Thanks,
Terry



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Greg McR

posted September 29, 2006 at 9:36 am


I am not sure why not knowing every purpose of God is an insurmountable problem? If it’s good enough for Job, it should humble us not make people say, (as I hear many Arminians say) “I would never worship a God like that”. If that’s the case then all theologizing is useless.
OTOH; Not having an explanation for why some choose God and others reject Him when all receive the same amount of grace, and why we are held responsible for rejection but not credited with merit for being smart enough or spiritual enough is a glaring inconsistency.



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Kipp Wilson

posted September 29, 2006 at 9:57 am


Josh, you came close to the problem I have with Arminianism as well. If persons A and B are given exactly the same measure of grace from God, and person A receives Christ while person B rejects him, that means that there was something inherently different about person A from person B. And if receiving Christ is a better choice than rejecting him, wouldn’t that imply that person A is an inherently better person (more intelligent, more loving, more humble) than person B, as demonstrated by his/her decision to accept Christ?
For me, the third way is not a blending of Calvinism and Arminianism, because I think Olson’s right in that the two are incompatible. The third way for me is to hold the two clearly biblical teachings (sovereignty and free will, to sum up a whole slew of teachings under two general categories) in paradox.
God is completely sovereign, yet man is in control of his own actions.
Salvation depends only on God, yet depends on whether man accepts it.
God is both just and merciful.
The debate only arises when we seek to resolve an apparent logical contradiction that the Bible leaves unresolved.



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BW

posted September 29, 2006 at 10:25 am


Terry, I appreciate you’re awareness that a forum like this challenges our ability to dive deeply into these matters.
I’ve mentioned in other posts that LeRon Shults (a seminary prof of mine) has helped immensely in these areas. To me, he has demonstrated in classes (which can’t be duplicated for you, unfortunately) and also in his writings (which anyone can read) that evangelical theology has embraced philosophical presuppositions that lead to the present Cal. vs. Arm. debate. Failing to understand the meta-distinction, viewing God as a single subject, embracing substance dualism and faculty psychology all contribute to the impasse.
As an example, the term “free will” continues to be stated (and embraced) with no reservations at all. Firstly, free will presumes a faculty psychology that many have seen as a tremendous problem except evangelical theologians. Also, why do we define freedom (or free will, if you like) as my ability to choose A or not? The Bible never defines freedom as an unhindered ability to do whatever I want. Freedom is always linked to participation in the Divine Life.
So, in my view, until we critically examine some of our presuppositions and are willing to redefine some of our concepts, I’m afraid we are going to be stuck here. Remember though, the goal isn’t to “solve” or “figure out” God or our relationship with him. It’s to accurately describe our relationship with God in such a way where our ideas of God don’t hinder our experience of him.



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johnMark

posted September 29, 2006 at 10:36 am


Isn’t prevenient grace irresistable? I believe it is. Think about it….
Mark



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Ted Gossard

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:15 am


Raised Arminian, I had thought that I had changed to a kind of Calvinism, but apparently not, according to this post. And I’ve entertained the view as stated here by Kipp, of simply holding to divine sovereignty and human responsibility- acknowledging there is no resolution. Also along the way, I’ve been suspicious of our confidence to have resolved this issue on either side, thinking we had imported human philosophical categories and arguments into this picture, which in themselves may neither be Scriptural or true- more like BW.
I guess I’m left for the time being, more than not- agnostic on this. Though what I can’t get away from is that God seems to take human decisions in Scripture very seriously, so that on the face of it, such are hardly predetermined. I find such a thought deadening, and surely a misreading of Biblical texts used to defend it. So for now, I guess that does swing me more to the Arminian side (hopefully I’m not on some pendulum). :)



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David

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:26 am


Scot, thanks for generating this discussion. Like Olson, I have come to the conclusion that Calvinism and Arminianism are theologically and philosophically incompatible. They proceed from competing “bliks” about what is most important about God — his rule and glory, or his relationality and love. The two theological systems flow from one of these springs. Both are springs of truth, but to drink too exclusively from either produces falsehood.
I have not been able to embrace Calvinism for a couple of fundamental reasons. First, at least in its Augustinian form Calvinism, draws at least as much from neoplatonism as from Hebrew monotheism. It thereby distorts the picture of God rendered in the Scriptures.
Second, Calvinism actually denigrates the glory of God. Think about it — how much talent does it take for an all-capable God simply to control all that happens in his creation? My kids do that with their Lego sets. To control is to take the easy way out. As a husband, parent, pastor, friend, and disciple, I continually battle the human tendency to control people and circumstances in order to get what we want. Control is the easy way out. Consequently, I simply don’t see a God who controls in a Calvinist sense as being as glorious as one who accomplishes his purposes in and through creatures in whom he has invested the opportunity and responsibility to make choices in a less controlled environment. Now that takes talent on a divine scale.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:34 am


BW,
I agree. I’m now reading Shults’ book again and will resume my posts — the issues are in part how we frame the issues.



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eric

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:45 am


I think Brian McLaren’s example of Modernity and Postmodernity being the difference between Mechanistic and Organism is enlightening for me.
Calvinism’s version of sovereignty as all-controlling is more machanistic. God flips the switch and the human automatons do as they are supposed to do.
Having created an organism, control is more like a parent with a child. Truth is taught, values instilled, and work ethic passed on, but the child can still choose on their own.



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Dana Ames

posted September 29, 2006 at 11:51 am


I agree with David. And having read some of Shults, BW’s point is what I was getting at with my earlier question about the C/A debate really making any sense any more. I suppose it does of one is asking the same questions; I think different questions are beginning to be asked now. Certainly blik has something to do with it all.
I think a large part of the difficulty around this could be solved if we were to read “soteria” as a combination of salvation, redemption and healing, with emphasis on the redemption aspect, realizing that salvation isn’t a “thing” we get, but a state into which we enter. In addition, if we consider Wright’s view of “election” as Paul’s thrust as a Jew trying to put words on what God is up to in bringing forth a new-creation humanity of believing Jews and gentiles, then election does not mean “accepting Christ so we go to heaven when we die” but rather “called to partner with God in accomplishing his purposes, indwelt by his Spirit, in this life and in the resurrection life to come (on earth where earth and heaven are finally one)”. In this light, the C/A debate essentially falls off the radar screen for me.
Dana



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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2006 at 12:08 pm


Eric,
We’re trying to be fair to both sides here, so I must say that Calvinism is not modernism, but prior to that. Nor do I think it is fair to describe it as “mechanistic” — since it is also clear that such a term is pejorative in description.
If you are using mechanism as monergism and organic as synergistic, I suppose the terms work, but the monergism/synergism are better descriptors.
Dana,
Good thoughts.



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manwe

posted September 29, 2006 at 1:00 pm


I guess I used to be a monergistic synergist – but I guess that is inconsistent so I’ll just be a synergist.



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Anonymous

posted September 29, 2006 at 1:19 pm


ReformedCatholicism.com » On Actual Arminianism

[…] His posts (currently: I, II, III and increasing) are interesting and thought-provoking. Â I have no doubt that Olson makes his case quite well that many (if not most) Calvinists have never properly understood Arminius, his theology, the surrounding context of Dort, and the Remonstrants. […]



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eric

posted September 29, 2006 at 2:01 pm


Scot,
What I meant was that the idea of control as often outlined in Calvinism is often mechanistic in description. I don’t mean that Arminianism is any more right or organism in nature. I was just illustrating that the description/definition of “God is in control” as associated with Calvinism is often mechanistic.



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Terry Tiessen

posted September 29, 2006 at 2:28 pm


Thanks, BW. I haven’t read Shults but I’ve put him on my “to read” list and I hope to remedy that situation.



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Daniel

posted September 29, 2006 at 3:32 pm


Josh,
I don’t think that the term “two-steppers” does justice to the Arminian perspective. I see grace as the fuel that enables man to know God. This is a life-long process. So in that sense, there’s a whole lot more than two steps. It’s more of a journey. Our responses to God’s grace along that journey will lead to our final destination. If someone rejects God’s grace, that person will be lost.
Scot’s study on Hebrews is a good illustration of resistible grace. If Scot’s right, then God gives grace to people with the intention of their final salvation; however, that grace can be resisted.



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Keith Schooley

posted September 29, 2006 at 7:09 pm


Arminians teach conditional election: it is general in scope rather than particular in application.
More precisely, Arminians teach unconditional election with regard to the group being elected (those who accept the call to salvation, as opposed to those who don’t). Election is only conditional with regard to individuals, who when confronted with the gospel and the grace to believe, make the choice of which group to be included in. The problem with Calvinism/Augustinianism is the individualistic focus. The “election passages” in the NT are about the inclusion of the Gentiles and the disinclusion of unbelieving Jews among the ranks of the “chosen people,” not about the selection of individual people to become believers. The New Perspective helps shed some light on this.
I don’t see that “holding both sides in tension” is an intellectually tenable position. If anyone ends up unsaved, they do so either because God didn’t offer saving grace or because they refused what was offered. I agree with Olson; there is no mediating position



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Craig Moore

posted September 29, 2006 at 8:57 pm


All of us deserve justice for our sins. If God was fair, we would all be in trouble. God must therefore choose to give mercy to some and well deserved justice to those he decides to treat fairly. That is some pretty good Calvinism don’t you think?



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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2006 at 9:22 pm


Craig,
Very Calvinistic. Is this the way the Bible presents the problem of human sin?



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Craig Moore

posted September 30, 2006 at 10:06 pm


Well Scott, Isn’t sin a violation of the laws of a sovereign God and his kingdom? Romans tells us that the “wages of sin is death.” If that is the case, we all deserve justice. To some sinners God chooses to give mercy and forgiveness. I guess Arminianism has not done a good job of explaining how a spiritually dead and depraved person manages to make the right choice. I understand prevenient grace, but doesn’t it place a huge burden on the depraved and spiritually dead sinner to choose wisely on such an important issue? Why did you or me choose to recieve Christ, but others we know have not? Are we smarter, wiser, less depraved or posses more inherrant goodness than others? If it is up to the sinner to choose correctly, the evangelist will need to be very persuasive, effective and annointed by God to get the job done.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 30, 2006 at 10:19 pm


Craig,
I’m assuming you’ve addressed this to me.
On the challenge: prevenient grace. God has acted to forgive all sinners in the work of Christ. I don’t think the burden is huge — or at least that’s not the way I’d say it for it suggests some kind of semi-Pelagianism. The gospel is preached and the potential convert is awakened to faith through the gospel and the Spirit.
We don’t know why God chooses anyone. It has nothing to do with the attributes you listen.



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Brendt

posted October 1, 2006 at 12:08 am


Nice to see that Calvinists don’t have a corner on the market of drawing imaginary lines in the sand and dividing the body.



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Bill Smith

posted October 1, 2006 at 1:01 am


This blog sounds like some of the discussions that I used to have with fellow seminary students. One point that often seems to get lost in these discussion is that these distinictions arose out of an attempt to interpret scripture. While theological/philosophical assumptions obviously influence our interpretation of scripture we cannot slide by our need to take say what we think the Bible is saying in Romans 9 or John 3:16. It has been my experience that most when a person or group says that they have come up with some new way to look at things they are just avoiding questions that arise out the text of scripture. Frankly I am skeptical that Schults or any interpreter has found a way of looking at the Bible with consistency that avoids the questions that Calvinism and Arminianism are seeking to answer. NT Wright certainly doesn’t avoid them.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 1, 2006 at 7:04 am


Bill,
Have you read LeRon Shults? I think you’d love engaging with him; philosophical and biblical and a mastery of the history of theological discussion.



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Bill Smith

posted October 1, 2006 at 12:49 pm


Scot,
I have read part of his book on spirituality. I do need to check out some of his other works. Plan to take a look at ETS book tables. Where should I start? By the way, sorry for all the mistakes in my previous entry.
Have you read Roger Olson’s book The Christian Story? Olson shows that the battle between monergism and synergism goes all the way back to the beginings of Christianity. In my experience Calvinists often begin the story with Augstine vs. Pelagius. Last spring I met a prof named Bruce Little from Southeastern Baptist Seminary who said that he had a student who was finsishing a doctoral paper that included a section showing that in the first three centuries of the church everyone who he could find was synergistic.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 1, 2006 at 1:28 pm


Bill,
Reforming the Doctrine of God might be your favorite; his stuff all comes into play in that book. I didn’t find the Spirituality book stimulating.
I haven’t read Olson’s book, but should — I think synergistic thinking is Jewish, too.



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Terry Tiessen

posted October 1, 2006 at 4:11 pm


Bill, I certainly find plausible the proposal that the early patristic writers were synergists. My own reading (probably less extensive than the thesis studentâ??s) has found the same trend, and it continued in the eastern church where the occasional monergist theologian arose but very rarely. The eastern church never did appreciate Augustine much.
As an interesting counterpoint, however, I mention a brief conversion with Tom Oden. You are probably familiar with his 3 volume systematic theology aimed to restate the â??consensual theologyâ? of the church. When I read the first volume (The Living God), which treated the doctrine of God, I was struck by how monergistic his consensus sounded. I commented on this and asked him whether the consensus of the early church was Augustinian. He said, â??Oh no, it was pre-Augustinian.â? He remarked wryly that he then wrote his fine work on Wesleyâ??s theology just to reassure his Methodist colleagues that he had not defected. That encounter with Odenâ??s reading of the early church has made me somewhat less ready to assert categorically that the early church was synergistic.
Even if that were the case, however, it wouldnâ??t trouble me, as a monergist. There are numerous other commonly stated beliefs from that period that I likewise reject because I don’t consider them true to Scripture. Since I hear the dominant narrative theme of both Old and New Testaments as thoroughly monergistic, I have asked myself, however, how this got lost so quickly. I find plausible the proposal that the fatalism of Stoicism was largely to blame. Inevitably, the tone of the churchâ??s teaching is influenced by the errors it is needing to combat. Although Arminians donâ??t always discern the difference (as comments on this thread have shown), there is a significant difference between the hard mechanistic determinism of fatalism and the compatibilism of Calvinism.
Cheers,
Terry



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Bill Smith

posted October 2, 2006 at 1:17 pm


Scot,
Thanks for the info. I will look into the book you mentioned by Shults.
Terry,
I have read Vol. 1 of Oden’s book some time back and I remember being blown back and forth by his statements on questions of monergism and synergism. My main point in the discussing these matters with convinced monergists is to try and show that things are just not as clear as some would suggest concerning this issue. I wonder if it was even that clear in Jewish thinking of the time or in the thinking of the biblical writers. Blessings.



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Perry Robinson

posted October 2, 2006 at 2:56 pm


Here are some of my thoughts.
When it is said that either system cannot explain fully why God or humans do some action, this depends in part on what we mean by “explain.” If we mean explain in terms of causal or logical antecedent states, then this is going to be true for a libertarian conception of freedom, applied to God or us. This is because on that gloss, an agent is free only if they are the source of their actions. That is there is no causal orlogical antecedent that is sufficient to bring about their action.And this is because persons are not natures.
Second, the fact that neither C or A can fully explain God or human actions in terms of antecedents indicates shared assumptions about freedom and explanation. C and A then form positions on a continuum of shared assumptions.
One of those classic assumptions is that goodness is simple. If the good is simple (One) and freedom requires a plurality of options (Many), then we have a simple dialectic-either agents will be good but not free or free but not good. Calvinist insistence on the “soverignty” of God seeks to preserve the absolute goodness of God in terms of explanatory power and Arminians seek to preserve the freedom of agents. The dialectic is driven in part by Platonic metaphysical asumptions about the simplicity of the Good and this is why the same dialectic drives even Open Theism. This is why Calvinism and Arminianism are just more recent examples of this dialectic which has its origin in Origen, who attempted to bring together the form of Christian theology with the philosophical content of late Platonism.
A helpful gloss on libertarian freedom is that freedom consists in being the source of one’s actions and have a plurality of options open to you. The paradigm case would be God’s choice to create. God can choose to create or choose not to create. It is most important to notice that both of these options are good so that the options of free choice need not be dialectically opposed, good v. evil.



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Jake Hermanzoon

posted October 3, 2006 at 12:18 am


Someone mentioned David Clotfelter’s book, above, as being a good resource. I would have to disagree. To me it seemed like a series of arguments made by someone with no exposure to an even slightly educated opposition. And even his exegesis of portions of scripture according to the “Calvinist perspective” displayed an ignorance of the broader and “deeper” work done by contemporary Calvinist commentators (post-1960’s?). In short, I think he insulted the Arminians with strawman arguments and made the Calvinists look arrogant and poorly studied.
Writing as a somewhat new non-Calvinist, I can say that I don’t expect that arguments based upon the appeal to prevenient grace, by themselves, are going to sway most opponents. After all, the idea sort of works like the unified theory of physics does to physicists. It’s something that makes sense to those that appeal to it, but cannot be thoroughly defined. On that note I was watching the Discovery Channel the other night where a leading physicists said that “in [his] gut” he couldn’t say that he (or anyone, for that matter) had a real understanding of quantum mechanics, yet that’s what he uses as the basis of his research and career.
My background is in experimental psychology. As the son of a pastor who was Calvinist at the time, the mechanistic psychological worldview meshed well with my Calvinism. As I grew older, however, I came to the realization that the faith I had was one that one that was given to me, but was not one that I had “made my own.” After all, there was the potential cognitive dissonance involved with a career that looked at everything through chemistry, genetics and conditioned behavior, and a broader, religious view that included the potential for supernatural beings, powers and abilities. Of course, those two views don’t have to conflict, but the potential is there, and I became aware of my own limitations in explaining the religious aspect of reality if I depended solely on the standard constructs I had kept close to my heart and mind.
As someone mentioned above, the Arminian and Calvinist views are incommensurable at many levels. “Prevenient grace” is a term that – I suppose – could be used by both sides, but in totally different ways. But for me, the “Arminian view” has more advantages in explaining things, just as quantum mechanics goes beyond the way Einstein saw things, even though it doesn’t explain everything (i.e., unified theory) or seem totally understandable or even effable.
For example, I look at Christ’s condemnation of Korazin and Bethsaida (Matt 11:20-24) and observe Tyre and Sidon “would have repented” if they had witnessed the same things. As a scientist, I’m prone to isolate the variables. In this case it was the opportunity to witness two events that would have resulted in different results with the manipulation of only one variable. As a theologian, I note that Scripture appears to teach that God must be active in the hearts and minds of men and women to enable them to believe, and repenting is synonymous with believing in those verses. So I conclude that since the people in those cities had the ability to believe (1) God was active in some unexplainable way in order to enable them to believe, and (2) that the God-given ability to believe does not always result in belief. It’s the last observation that inclines me toward the Arminian perspective, since their perspective suggests that the God-given ability to believe will not always result in belief, whereas the Calvinist perspective is that the ability to believe always results in belief — not to mention that most Calvinist theologies hold to the view that regeneration is required for a person to believe.



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John C. Gardner

posted October 4, 2006 at 4:03 pm


The issue of imcompatibility over predestination is critical. I myself have come to believe in both predestination and free will from a middle knowledge perspective(e.g. Molina).It seems to resolve the tension over whether predestination involves is planned down to the micro level and whether(with God’s middle knowledge) he could have planned to insure results while still providing the person with free will. I am also open to JI Packer’s idea that predestination and free will both exist and that it is a mystery that God has not resolved for us.



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Terry Tiessen

posted October 4, 2006 at 4:36 pm


John,
I gather that you are satisfied, then, with the Molinist responses to the â??groundingâ? objection. I think that Molinism would be a wonderful option but for that problem which seems insurmountable, to me. Like the many other detractors of Molinism, both Calvinist and Open Theist, I do not believe that even an omniscient God could know what a libertarianly free creature would do in situations that never occur. By definition, a libertarianly free creature could do the unexpected, however slight the odds are. Until a decision is made, it is impossible to know for certain what it would be. I commend to you, therefore, the middle knowledge Calvinism that I put forward in _Providence and Prayer_. :-)
Terry



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Bob Charters

posted October 5, 2006 at 3:40 am


I’m afraid I didn’t have time to read all the above responses before answering this. I did get as far as Josh’s and Kipp’s comments about what prevenient grace would look like in one who decides not to accept it.
My argument would be, man has free will by virtue of being created in God’s image. Because of that, man’s will is something that we can never understand fully. It’s one of the mysteries, just like “How God can be three and yet one”, and “How God can never have had a beginning.” The mystery of humanity is, “Why do people choose to do certain things?” The whole field of psycology is dedicated to finding that out. So, whether a person will choose to accept or reject something when the alternatives have been made absolutely clear, is not something that can be determined a simple maths equasion. Man’s will is simply too complex to be fit into a box like that (I also believe that possible reasons for rejecting grace would include the demands of discipleship, but that gets into a different topic).
That leads into what I had been wanting to say regarding the question of God being either sovereign or loving. My argument is that this only seems like a problem to the human mind, which tends to say, “I am in controle, therefore, you lose your freedom of choice”. In response to that, God would say, “I am so infinite in wisdom and power that I am quite capable of allowing you to have free choice, and yet remain sovereign. I don’t have to controle every single event, nor even the direction of your life, just to keep history moving in the direction I intended.”



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Jake H.

posted October 6, 2006 at 1:44 am


The whole field of psycology is dedicated to finding that out. So, whether a person will choose to accept or reject something when the alternatives have been made absolutely clear, is not something that can be determined a simple maths equation.
Exactly my point a few posts above. I have to laugh at the arrogance of psychologists past and present. It was only 60 years ago that the leading behavioral psychologist, J. B. Watson (Hopkins), was refusing to acknowledge the existence of the mind or thought (at least in practice), and attributed all behavior to “glandular secretions and muscular movements.” Yikes! And now we think we’ve finally “arrived”? I have to laugh.
It only gets worse when we get to the metaphysical level. Then philosophy really takes over. My solution is the field-test.



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