The New Christians

The New Christians


Quote of the Week

posted by Tony Jones
The greatest gift that God in His bounty made in creation,
and
the most conformable to His goodness,
and that which He prizes the
most,
was the freedom of will,
with which the creatures with
intelligence,
they all and they alone,
were and are endowed.
Dante Alighieri
Divine Comedy, Paradiso
Canto V, lines 19-24



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Brian

posted February 22, 2009 at 2:13 pm


Nice quote. Clark Pinnock has a couple related quotes in “Homiletics”:
“The openness of God is very scriptural. It’s the classical people who are embarrassed by texts that speak of God changing his mind. We’re the ones who think that perhaps these texts reveal something about God. In Genesis 6, for example, and all the repentance texts, God is sorry that he made man upon the earth. It’s odd, because our opponents are saying we deny biblical authority, but in the debate it looks like it is they, not us, who deny biblical authority. Jonah is another example where God says he will judge Nineveh and then he doesn’t. He relents. And of course the odd thing is that Jonah is angry about that. God’s relenting from judgment is the glorious thing about God! We’re not diminishing God by saying God relents from judgment, but celebrating that he is a God who does! Then there’s Isaiah 5, where God says, “I planted this vineyard Israel and did everything I could and look what happened. It brought forth sour grapes. What could I have done that I didn’t do?” In other words, God is confronting a situation that appears to be a great matter of distress to him. But how could it be if he had determined it all? It wouldn’t be. It would just be another thing he had already decided.”
“A lot of the appeal of openness is that, on the one hand, it can take a lot of Scriptures more straightforwardly, like repentance texts, but, on the other hand, it can also better handle practical matters Christians always assume — such as prayer making a difference. Because in the classical view, praying cannot make any difference. The outcome is predestined. The prayer — the answer for which is predestined — is also predestined! The reason openness has an appeal today is because it has an existential fit. People assume when they pray that the openness view of God is true and that, in fact, God may respond to them and do something that he otherwise would not have done. So part of its appeal is its practicality. If God is inviting the world to be saved it seems to imply that the world can be saved, and therefore that is not predestination — it looks like it’s an open thing.”
http://www.homileticsonline.com/subscriber/interviews/Pinnock.asp



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Benjamin

posted February 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm


no where in creation was free will ever mentioned
the cross was knew before creation and we were chosen before creation – Ephesians 1
no free will about it
Brian,
Yes the Fathers will is for all to come to know and love him, but the fact is He has chosen who he has chosen, no one can dispute that. Paul and Peter both tell us that we have always been and will always be predestined to be sanctified in the Spirit for the glory of the Father.
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath, prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory?
Free Will is an illusion and i have no problem saying that



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Benjamin

posted February 22, 2009 at 4:56 pm


AND
by saying that God is “Open” you lose all authority that he has as God
if the clay can be smarter than the potter then the potter is really stupid and therefore, not God
In every instance that you refer to in scripture, the Lord had his purpose and his way of achieving that purpose, he knew that Nineveh would never repent unless their impending destruction was actually open them.
God does what he wants, and we do what God wants. I worship and love a creator God who does not barter with his creation.
How inscrutable are his ways? Who can council the God of the Universe?



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Raymond

posted February 22, 2009 at 5:22 pm


Thank goodness free will is an illusion.
It is truly comforting to my soul that the God has predestined me to eat at In-N-Out three days a week.
Maybe that will get my wife off my back.



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Brian

posted February 22, 2009 at 6:54 pm


Benjamin, thank you for your honest thoughts. Your concerns are certainly valid. For you, the “power” and “sovereignty” of God is important to uphold. I agree. God is different than us! I think we could agree on that. My question is what if we defined God’s divine power and sovereignty in a slightly different way than they are traditionally described.
Aristotle argued that God is an “umoved mover.” In the West, this came to mean that God must be different than us. God must have ultimate power and sovereignty. God must be powerful like a mighty king, who controlls his people. The Church began thinking that God was more like Ceasar than like Jesus. Afred North Whitehead said, “The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exlusively to Ceasar.” So my suggestion is to describe God by the attributes of Jesus instead of Ceasar.
God is revealed in and through Jesus. Jesus was born in a feeding trough of a cattle barn. Jesus shared the love, care, and justice of God with people he encountered. Jesus lived out his ministry with limited means. Jesus was crucified by Roman authorities. The list could go on and on. The point is that Jesus had a different kind of power than Ceasar. Ceasar forced devotion through coersion. Jesus inspired devotion through love. Coersion and love are two different kinds of power.
Is coersion or love more powerful? Is it more amazing that God would coersively force us to love/worship/serve God, or is it more amazing that God could graciously inspire us to love/worship/serve God? Is God who coersively forces us or a God who lovingly inspires more worthy of worship? Perhaps an analogy would help me articulate this point.
Consider a man who wants to marry a woman. The man could hold a gun to that woman’s head and force her to marry him. That’s coersion. But, instead, he could inspire her to marry him. That’s love. I think love is God’s power. And love is a completely different kind of power. Whitehead says “Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved.” Love doesn’t rule or force someone, but love is still very powerful. In fact, I can think of nothing more powerful than love. And 1 John 4:8 says that God is love. So perhaps we can agree that God is powerful afterall.



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Jim

posted February 22, 2009 at 10:32 pm


“In fact, I can think of nothing more powerful than love.”
Except, that is, the human will, which is capable of resisting it, unless I misunderstand.
P.S. – Dante is amazing.



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ben (not the benjamin above)

posted February 22, 2009 at 10:36 pm


(I apologize it’s so long, but I don’t have time to edit it now…)
I’m not sure how to understand Dante’s use of “free will” here but I’m sure I don’t like Pinnock’s use of the term. I think there is some confusion here and I think it would be helpful to define what we mean by “will.” Clearly no man has the “free will” to fly, run faster than a speeding bullet, etc because these things are not in his ability to do. Mankind’s nature constrains him, even though he may want to do these things. Furthermore, man only ever chooses that which he wants to do. (The person injuring himself chooses bodily pain over emotional pain; the person who eats collard greens probably values his health more than an a food preference for a Snickers.) It is not anyone “constraining” him to do these things, but HE IS BOUND by his own nature and desires. So too, humans make real choices that entail real consequences, but these are all constrained by nature, and thus are “free” in only a limited sense.
Now Paul says, humans are “by nature, children of wrath” which means that it is our nature to oppose God, leaving us incapable of doing good. But thanks be to God, that He does not leave us there! By His grace, God intervenes in the world and lets “children of wrath” do some good things. Furthermore, some He changes so radically that they become people who have a nature that loves righteousness and doing good. It’s like these people are born a 2nd time (John 3). Thus, I’d agree with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and J. Edwards: man has a free will to make real choices in this world, but that will is bound by man’s “contagion”, by his indwelling sin-nature to oppose God. Thus no man can choose God or Christ or love without God first acting on that person’s heart to create in them a new desire, love and will.
So if someone defines “free will” as “ability to choose any option at any time” then I would vigorously disagree, but I would affirm biblically that man has “free will” – meaning he makes real choices in the world, even as the Sovereign God guides all things by His eternal decree from infinity past. I find no conflict in affirming that God has decreed all things from eternity past and yet humans make real choices in this world that they will be held accountable for.
Brian,
I would contend that the ideas of God being King (similar to a Caesar – although holy, just, loving…) and being different-from-mankind are biblical, not just from Greek philosophy, etc.
Genesis 1 – God creates everything that is created and therefore clearly is distinguished as the only being that is completely self-sufficient.
Malachi 6:3 – “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob are not consumed.”
Colossians 1:16 – “For by [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
Also – is the line between “coercing” love and “inspiring” love clear for you? Did my wife inspire my love, or could I not also say that she even coerced my love? Not by physical force or manipulation of course, but coercion by her beauty, love and charm? I suggest that God’s work in a sinner MUST be one of radical wooing – even “coercion” if you want to call it that – because otherwise His advances would only lead mankind to be all-the-more disgusted with Him, just like Laura Winslow so often became disgusted with the advances of Steve Urkel. The real question is – back to the Original Sin discussion – does man have a will that can simply be re-directed to God (as Laura finally chose Urkel), or is it so diseased and God-opposed that it first needs a “new birth” in order for the heart to love God and His commandments? For me, the Bible clearly affirms the latter.
TJ – I’m curious what was taught at PTS – do most teachers run in the Reformed stream and affirm God’s sovereignty, man’s fallen nature, and the primacy of God’s grace in salvation? Do most / many affirm the libertarian form of free-will espoused by Pinnock (and possible Dante)?



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Brian

posted February 23, 2009 at 12:17 am


To quote the great theologian Huey Lewis:
The power of love is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a hawk to a little white dove
More than a feeling thats the power of love
Tougher than diamonds, rich like cream
Stronger and harder than a bad girls dream
Make a bad one good make a wrong one right
Power of love that keeps you home at night
You dont need money, dont take fame
Dont need no credit card to ride this train
Its strong and its sudden and its cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life
Thats the power of love
Thats the power of love
First time you feel it, it might make you sad
Next time you feel it it might make you mad
But youll be glad baby when youve found
Thats the power makes the world goround
And it dont take money, dont take fame
Dont need no credit card to ride this train
Its strong and its sudden it can be cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life
They say that all in love is fair
Yeah, but you dont care
But you know what to do
When it gets hold of you
And with a little help from above
You feel the power of love
You feel the power of love
Can you feel it ?
Hmmm
It dont take money and it dont take fame
Dont need no credit card to ride this train
Tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel
You wont feel nothin till you feel
You feel the power, just the power of love
Thats the power, thats the power of love
You feel the power of love
You feel the power of love
Feel the power of love



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cp

posted February 23, 2009 at 12:27 am


Raymond–you rock.
Thanks for your keen perspective on the issue. : )



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Benjamin

posted February 23, 2009 at 2:13 am


Brian
Your eye for history is encouraging, but it think what your argument is missing is clear scriptural background.
Christ came as a lamb led to the slaughter and in his infinite grace partook every temptation we could and then went on to finish his work on the cross sealing us with his love and mercy, beaten and despised but all the more lovely. He asended and sent his Spirit to continue his work.
But the Christ that came to ransom the sins of the world is not the entire triune God, nor is it the Christ that is coming back for us to judge the living and the dead. The early Church suffered under Ceaser for many years and i highly doubt that the captives would idolize their captors. The Christ of Revelation comes with a white robe dipped in blood. God is that serious, even if we are not.
Like i said, your use of history is a good one but i will have to disagree with you. You have no historical proof that the Church did what you say it did, nor do you have circumstantial proof.
On the original subject, i hold fast to my scriptural proof that free will does not exist. Just because someone says it does does not make it true. The Bible however clearly says it is not true, and if you claim Christ then you must claim the scriptures that teach him and his love, and if you claim the scriptures then its my believe that you cannot claim free will.
While i dont believe this is necessary for salvation i do believe it is needed for sanctification, which is the goal of salvation.



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Brian

posted February 23, 2009 at 9:58 am


Benjamin,
Thank you for your note. I appreciate the continued conversation, but I am disapointed by the lack of openness to dialogue in a fair and honest way. You argue that I am flat wrong, by saying: “The Bible however clearly says it is not true, and if you claim Christ then you must claim the scriptures that teach him and his love, and if you claim the scriptures then its my believe that you cannot claim free will.” This statement implies that I don’t take Christ or the Bible seriously. In one post above I talk overtly about Jesus as revelation of God. In another post I quote Clark Pinnock in an article where he talks about the Scriptural reasons for being a free will theist. Therefore, your charge against me is unwarrented and inappropriate. I think what you are trying to say is that my understanding of Christ and Scripture isn’t the same as your understanding of Christ and Scripture. That would be a fair and honest assessment. But in a world of many different understandings of Christ and Scripture, you can’t claim that YOUR perspective is THE perspective. It’s just one take on them. Just like my perspective is one take on them. Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Zwingly, Pinnock, Cobb, etc. all have different perspectives. We all stand in a long line of Christians who hold diverse theologies. The only thing we have with any certainty is the ongoing conversation among these different theologians and theologies. Even the Bible is a collection of diverse writings and theologies. As Parker Palmer said, “Truth is an ongoing conversation about things that matter.”



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Pat

posted February 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm


I’m glad Dante includes all the creatures with intelligence. A theology that leaves out the animals is sorely inadequate.



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Jim

posted February 23, 2009 at 7:07 pm


Sorry Pat, I think Dante would consider animals to have sensible souls, not intelligent ones. That is, the can “feel,” but not understand. The other intelligent creatures with free will would likely be the angels.
Brian, I’m afraid you’re being a little unfair to Benjamin here. Of course he thinks his own perspective is right. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t hold it as his own perspective. You may wish him to be more easily persuaded, but he likely wishes you to be more easily persuaded (from your anti-foundationalism) as well. You may fault him for being stubborn, perhaps, but not for believing his own beliefs are true. Everyone believes that, even if those beliefs include a sort of anti-foundationalism.



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Brian

posted February 23, 2009 at 7:17 pm


People who hold the perspective that God unilaterally controls all things has a strong belief in God’s sovereignty, predestination, and deterministic final causality. In this perspective, the world is as God wills it to be; and it is our duty to live in that reality as God pre-orchestrates it. Thus, working for change in God’s pre-designed world could be considered unfaithful to God’s “plan” and perhaps even sinful. But there are other perspectives!
Two alternatives to this deterministic understanding of God’s power are Open Theism, where God usually works through persuasion; and Process Theism, where God only works through persuasion. In Open Theism God is ontologically independent and can act unilaterally, but usually chooses to usher in the Basileia of God through the power of loving influence. In Process Theism, God is ontologically interdependent and cannot act unilaterally, thus must usher in the Basileia of God through the power of loving influence. In both these perspectives, human action is important because God uses humanity to accomplish God’s salvific work. Both of these perspectives also have a high theological anthropology in appearance (i.e. agential role of humanity), but a low theological anthropology in practice (i.e. humanity continually fails). The major difference is that Open Theism holds to the belief that “whether our race survives is ultimately dependant on God” (Pinnock, 173). Thus, while the agential role of humanity is important for Open Theism, it is ultimately not imperative to Creation’s survival.



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