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Thread: One on Two - Calvinism: Knight with assuranceagent and Ask Mr Religion

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    Your powers are weak, old man. Knight's Avatar
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    Thumbs up One on Two - Calvinism: Knight with assuranceagent and Ask Mr Religion

    Welcome to my "One on Two" discussion with assuranceagent and Ask Mr Religion. The point of this discussion is to allow assuranceagent and Ask Mr. Religion to help me get a better understanding of what Calvinism teaches. As many of you may or may not know I am a staunch open theist.

    Yet to the chagrin of my Open Theist friends this thread WILL NOT be a debate. I will not be attempting to disprove Calvinism or even argue against Calvinism in this thread.

    And the reason for this is....
    I and other Open Theists often get accused of debating a false version of Calvinism when we make open theist arguments therefore it would only benefit all of us if we stopped and took the time to better understand the Calvinist position.

    I will possibly ask for clarification on occasion and I might even ask how a certain statement fits within the scope of a biblical passage that seems to refute it but this isn't meant to be argumentative yet instead such responses should be used so I can fully understand the theology that is Calvinism.

    Ask Mr Religion and assuranceagent have been around TOL a long time and even though we disagree on this issue we have become friends and I respect their opinion very much. The three of us have agreed "behind the scenes" to attempt to have a respectful, fruitful, and worth while discussion with the hope that we can all understand each other better when we are out "in the wild" debating and fellowshipping on the forums. We have agreed to try to limit this discussion to our own opinions (avoid linking to other sources unless it's super important) and we have also agreed to attempt to make each post "bite size" and easy to read and respond to since we are all busy guys.

    So lets start this puppy!!

    Let me get things rolling by asking AMR and assuranceagent if they can briefly describe the following three theologies:

    - Calvinism
    - Arminianism
    - Open Theism

    In a sentence or two, what do those three different school's of thought mean to you?

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to have this discussion with me. This One on Two will last for about two weeks and then I will shut it down unless we all feel we should keep it going for a bit longer.
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    I want to first thank Knight for his willingness to provide a forum in which these matters can be more fully discussed. I applaud his desire to become more fully acquainted with the Reformed doctrines so that we may all be edified.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    Let me get things rolling by asking AMR and assuranceagent if they can briefly describe the following three theologies: - Calvinism - Arminianism - Open Theism In a sentence or two, what do those three different school's of thought mean to you? Thank you in advance for taking the time to have this discussion with me. This One on Two will last for about two weeks and then I will shut it down unless we all feel we should keep it going for a bit longer.
    I appreciate Knight's willingness to allow for some discussion on these topics so that folks can all be on the same page. I heartily applaud Knight’s rationale for this One-on-Two discussion:

    And the reason for this is....
    I and other Open Theists often get accused of debating a false version of Calvinism when we make open theist arguments therefore it would only benefit all of us if we stopped and took the time to better understand the Calvinist position.
    If this thread is successful, it will have provided a baseline of proper Calvinisitic views for those that want to learn more about Reformed Theology.

    I should note that assuranceagent (AA) and I (AMR) will not necessarily agree on all matters with respect to what others view as “Calvinism”. I will approach the subject from a conservative Presbyterian perspective, while AA will no doubt rely upon his own Baptist views. Hopefully, I don’t think our views will be that far apart, especially since I am a formally ordained Southern Baptist minister.

    While we have all agreed to keep our posts short, and Knight asked for a “sentence or two” describing three major doctrinal positions, this initial post will be longer than usual so that the foundations can be properly set. For this I apologize, and promise to keep things shorter as the discussion ensues.

    Calvinism

    As assuranceagent has noted elsewhere, Calvinism is a label often misunderstood and generally applied to anyone whose soteriology supports in unconditional predestination of the elect.

    As I noted in AA's thread, we really need to speak about Reformed theology, which I believer is best articulated by the Westminster Confession of Faith. Unfortunately for most, Calvinism means TULIP, an acrostic developed much longer after Calvin's death, which describes:

    TOTAL DEPRAVITY (Total Inability) - The Calvinist believes, as did Martin Luther, that man has a will and his will is in bondage to his nature. The will of man is free to choose according to the dictates of his nature, but it is not free to contradict his nature. From Adam's fall the nature of every man has been sinful. Therefore, every action of the unsaved man is sinful and rebellious; it is stained through and through by his sin nature. The unregenerate man cannot perform even one single righteous or pleasing work with respect to a holy God.

    UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION - The Calvinist believes that God’s election is truly unconditional. The foreknowledge of God is based upon His decree, plan, and purpose; it is the expression of His will and good pleasure, not a response to man's free-will choices. Election is the sovereign act of God the Father choosing specific individuals out from the entire body of condemned and fallen humanity. These individuals were chosen before the foundations of the universe and not as a result of any foreseen merit or activity or decision on their part. These chosen or elect individuals are purposed to become monuments to the Father's love for all of eternity. In this regard the Calvinist understands election as an example of God’s "love before time."

    LIMITED ATONEMENT - The Calvinist believes that in order to accomplish the specific will of the Father, Christ took to the Cross the sins of the elect. Christ died for the sins of men without distinction as to race or nationality (that is, Jew or Gentile). Christ provided a complete and effectual atonement for their sins. Those whom Christ redeemed, Christ really and truly redeemed (actual not potential). Though infinite in value, Christ's atoning work was specific in its design. Some Calvinists prefer to call this "definite atonement" or "particular redemption". The death of Christ at Calvary does not make men savable, but rather it saves men completely. The Cross is a completed, successful work that requires no assistance from man. The Calvinist believes that Christ died for all of the sins of the elect.

    IRRESISTIBLE GRACE - The Calvinist believes that the Holy Spirit, in agreement with the electing will of the Father and the atoning work of the Son, does in the fullness of time quicken the dead spirit of a man and give to him the gift of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Calvinist, the logical order of salvation is regeneration first, followed by faith/believing. Since dead men do not respond, God must make them alive first (Eph 2:4-5); regeneration, of necessity, precedes any action or activity on the part of man, including faith and repentance. Hence, every single individual upon whom the Spirit of God moves savingly is regenerated, born again, adopted, grafted in, and saved eternally.

    PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS - The Calvinist believes that since God is the Author and Finisher of our faith, man cannot fall away from eternal salvation. Once a man has been born-again he cannot be unborn-again. Furthermore, the elect of God will definitely manifest evidences of their salvation by means of good works. The elect shall, by the grace of God and without exception, ultimately persevere in righteousness. The eternal security of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrated by the persevering faith and righteousness wrought by the grace of God in His little begotten ones.

    Arminianism

    When one examines Arminianism and takes it to its fundamental premises, they will find that Arminianism is a system that rests upon the assumption that Christ's gift is a compensation to mankind for the evils that were brought upon it by Adam's sin.

    Arminians will readily admit Adam's sin caused the sin of the whole race and that everyone enters the world with a sin nature such that all Adam's descendants are depraved and incapable of loving God. Nevertheless, the Arminian will also admit that while men are by nature not responsible for their moral situation, since this situation falls upon them before any action on their part. Thus the Arminian will argue that mankind cannot be punished for original sin, nor could mankind be held responsible for their disobedience arising as a consequence of their original depravity, unless God, though Christ's sacrifice, provides a remedy.

    The Arminian remedy is the grant from God to each person a gracious ability to do all that is required of the man as the condition of the man’s salvation. Thus, to the Arminian, this redemption and gracious ability to believe and obey is owed by God to all men, and thus all men are held by God to be responsible and punishable, since men are able to choose according to the contrary, the liberty of indifference, or libertarian free will.

    Open Theism

    Open theism is an evolution of Whitehead’s process theism, wherein it is held that God imposes limitations upon Himself. The leading and most popular proponents of open theism include David Basinger, Gregory Boyd, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, and John Sanders. The writings of these men is required reading for anyone who hopes to understand and interact with proponents of open theism. Anyone hoping to understand open theism, and interact with its proponents needs to have read the writings of these men. Unfortunately, there are even many self-described open theists who have not done so.

    In his, Is Open Theism Christian Theism?, Sanders writes:

    “The Open view arises out of the longstanding stream of the tradition which affirms libertarian freedom, conditional election, that our prayers can affect God, and utilizes the freewill defense. Hence, it finds much agreement with the early fathers, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Arminian and Wesleyan traditions, as well as proponents of simple foreknowledge. The openness model is an attempt to provide a more biblically faithful, rationally coherent, and practically satisfying account of God and the divine-human relationship from within this tradition.”

    In my opinion, a summary of the basic tenets of open theism would be:

    1. God not only created the world ex nihilo but can (and at times does) intervene unilaterally in earthly affairs.
    2. God chose to create mankind with incompatibilistic (libertarian) freedom—freedom over which He cannot exercise total control.
    3. God so values freedom—the moral integrity of free creatures and a world in which such integrity is possible—that He does not normally override such freedom, even if He sees that it is producing undesirable results.
    4. God always desires the highest good, both individually and corporately, and thus is affected by what happens in our lives.
    5. God does not possess exhaustive foreknowledge of exactly how we will utilize our freedom, although He may at times be able to predict with great accuracy the choices we will freely make.
    (Src: David Basinger in Pinnock’s The Openness of God)

    Nevertheless, especially within the confines of TOL, one will find differences of opinion on these basic tenets. For example, there are open theists who will disagree that all of the future is unknowable to God, or that God will never override the libertarian free will of His creatures.

    AMR
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    For several reasons, I was pretty stoked to get the PM from Knight asking me to take part in this 1:2.

    First, I find myself in good company. I have a great deal of respect for AMR as a man who clearly loves God and whose breadth of knowledge concerning the topic at hand is pretty much unparalleled around these parts (not to mention most other parts I've frequented.) As for Knight, though he and I disagree on a fair number of theological issues, I've come to know him as yet another guy with a real heart for God, and a passion for what he believes. In Knight, I've found a friend that matches respect for respect and often weilds humor as effectively to disarm as to eviscerate. Most of all, though, I've been priviliged to be here long enough to actually see Knight grow and adjust, even in my relatively short time on TOL. That's a rare quality in any context and it's one I can't help but respect.

    Secondly, this has been a topic that is near and dear to me, and one that I pretty passionately pursue around the forums. And by that, I mean theological mischaracterization or misunderstanding. I've always believed that debate, if it is to be worth any more than schoolyard bravado and posturing for popularity, should be a "fair fight," at least from the standpoint of content. That is to say - it should be based on the reality of the debate, and not on contrivance. And further, once misunderstandings are brought to light, the honest "combatant" should amend his argument to incorporate his new-found knowledge of his opponent's position, rather than holding to his often more convenient mischaracterizations.

    And I want to point out also that in pursuing this issue, I've "fought" for most all sides, endeavoring to correct misconceptions about Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism -- even the particulars around certain individuals' positions. Delmar, Chickenman, STP, Sozo and others can attest to my willingness and desire to learn more about positions I don't actually adhere to and hopefully my honesty in approaching those various positions for the purposes of debating their merits, etc.

    So to be given the opportunity to participate in a discussion with the stated intent of correcting misconceptions, was an opportunity that I fairly jumped at, and I hope to be a profitable contributor to the discussion.

    So I guess what I'm saying is: thanks to Knight and AMR for letting me tag along!



    In his initial post, Knight said the following:
    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    The three of us have agreed "behind the scenes" to attempt to have a respectful, fruitful, and worth while discussion with the hope that we can all understand each other better when we are out "in the wild" debating and fellowshipping on the forums.
    So there's the purpose of the conversation in black and white. That said, I want to clarify what the "behind the scenes" agreement was in the interest of explaining my approach in this discussion.

    When Knight asked me (and AMR) to participate in this discussion, his vision of how this would progress was that it would be "like a couple of friends chatting over a cold beer." In other words, informal and conversational. So that's the approach I'll take.

    As Knight said:
    We have agreed to try to limit this discussion to our own opinions (avoid linking to other sources unless it's super important) and we have also agreed to attempt to make each post "bite size" and easy to read and respond to since we are all busy guys.
    And after this initial post, I assure you that I will make every effort to be less verbose and more accomodating of the typical bite.

    Right off, though, I want to clarify a bit about my position to avoid any misunderstandings from the get-go. AMR mentioned that I would be coming from a Baptist perspective. That's not exactly true, but it's an understandable assumption. What is true, is that I am not a "traditional Calvinist" and so my opinions will very likely differ from AMR's on a number of issues. When that happens, I will try to make it clear that my opinion differs from traditional Calvinism and in what respect. As for the reality of my position, I'm admittedly a bit of a theological hodge-podge. That said, I was educated at Dallas Theological Seminary (no denominational affiliation) and thus, paid good money to pretty much line up with them point for point. My positions on various issues will become clear as the conversation progresses, but if you want to get a good feel for where I stand in advance, feel free to peruse the DTS statement of faith and distinctives and you'll have a pretty good idea. All joking aside, I went to DTS because I lined up with their doctrinal positions, I don't line up with their doctrinal positions because I went to DTS.

    Okay, enough yapping. On to the main event!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    Let me get things rolling by asking AMR and assuranceagent if they can briefly describe the following three theologies:

    - Calvinism
    - Arminianism
    - Open Theism

    In a sentence or two, what do those three different school's of thought mean to you?
    Well, since you want us to be brief, I will be. But in being brief, I'm only giving a "summary statement" of each position, rather than really discussing any of the distinctives. I'm sure the latter will flesh out as the conversation progresses and you're free to clarify anything you wish.

    Calvinism - True Calvinism encompasses an entire theological system consisting of not only soteriology (the famous TULIP mentioned by AMR) but even bearing distinctives such as infant baptism all the way to the structure and governance of the church in practice. My experience is that most people call any theological position that holds to unconditional election (or anything close to it) "Calvinist", but the reality is that the opponents of Calvinism give FAR more emphasis to that doctrine than do most Calvinists or even Calvin himself. If I were to summarize Calvinism, though, I would say that it is a theological system in which God is ultimately in control of all that happens and is directly involved with His creation in most every aspect. Now, I want to be clear that what I didn't say, was that God actively causes all things to happen in a scripted manner or that He took active involvement in every particular. I'm sure that will become an important topic later in the conversation. Suffice it to say that the defining characteristic of Calvinism, in my eyes, is that it places a strong emphasis on the sovereignty and authority of God over His creation and that emphasis bleeds over into and helps to define pretty much all the other doctrines of the faith.

    Arminianism - Arminianism tends toward an attempt to balance God's sovereignty with a more libertarian idea of free-will than that of Calvinism. Again, though, it is a complete theological system, encompassing more than just doctrines concerning salvation and election. To the Arminian, God has exhaustive foreknowledge, but makes any number of His decisions based on His foreknowledge of the choices of man, rather than based solely on His own discretion. For instance, God elects unto salvation those that He, from eternity past, knew would accept Him on faith. They would say He chose them because He knew they would choose Him. Where Calvinism would say that the natural man is dead, deaf, dumb and blind to God because of his fallen state, the Arminian views the natural man as merely sick, hard of hearing, a little quiet, and suffering from astigmatism. ( ) Arminianism also holds that salvation can be lost through continued, unrepentant sin, or voluntary fofeiture. In this way, eternal security is only a tentative reality for the believer because he may just turn apostate at some point in the future.

    Open Theism - the Open View is a system that places emphasis on the relational aspects of God above all else and of the three, most strongly affirms the idea of a libertarian free will in man. Most distinctive is that the Open Theist denies that God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge of the future and is therefore essentially reactive to the choices of free men. This idea is expressed in Open Theology to such an extent that God gains knowledge, can be mistaken, and can have His will thwarted, meaning He is at risk. The Open Theist would further say that this dynamic is a necessary one if man is to experience a true love relationship with God. The Open Theist would affirm God's ultimate sovereignty and say that He is capable of effectually bringing about His will in any situation, but that His active involvement in such a manner is exceptional. If I were to sum it up, I would say that Open Theism emphasizes the idea of libertarian free will in man and the creative power of that will to effect both the future at large as well as the relationship between God and man.

    Again, these are cursory overviews at best and I'm sure they all bear clarification. As an interesting aside, I used to be a staunch Arminian, even to the extent of teaching on staff at a Free Will Baptist church. My shift in theology came at further study of scripture. I don't hold tightly to any of these three positions, preferring instead to keep my theology flexible so that I can adjust and refine as my understanding of God's Word increases. That said, I find merit in aspects of all three and I believe that there are adherents of each school of thought that passionately pursue God and I understand that each represents a pursuit of the truth as presented in God's Word.

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    Your powers are weak, old man. Knight's Avatar
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    Wow! Excellent first posts, I really appreciate AA's and AMR's fair treatment of Open Theism. Obviously it's early in the discussion but so far I think we are all pretty much on the same page and understand each other.

    Some have asked why I chose to do a one on two instead of the typical one on one. The reason is, I didn't want to put the effort into this discussion only to have people say... "well that's just what so and so thinks, that's not really what other Calvinists think." I think by getting assuranceagent and Ask Mr. Religion's input I will be getting a more rounded and likely more accurate overall picture of what Calvinism is really all about.

    My first impression after the first round of posts is that I am reminded of what a dork I am. AA and AMR have such a scholarly and precise writing style while I'm just a hack who bangs away at the keyboard. I wish I could write as well as they do.

    I can't say as though I have seen anything yet that I would challenge or even say I wasn't aware of so I think if it's alright with AA and AMR I will just jump to my second question.

    (these questions haven't been planned out, I'm just asking what comes to my mind and what interests me).

    What do you think is the number one thing(s) that Open Theists (on TOL) misunderstand and misrepresent about Calvinism?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    Wow! Excellent first posts, I really appreciate AA's and AMR's fair treatment of Open Theism. Obviously it's early in the discussion but so far I think we are all pretty much on the same page and understand each other.
    Thank you, Knight, for these kind words.

    Some have asked why I chose to do a one on two instead of the typical one on one. The reason is, I didn't want to put the effort into this discussion only to have people say... "well that's just what so and so thinks, that's not really what other Calvinists think." I think by getting assuranceagent and Ask Mr. Religion's input I will be getting a more rounded and likely more accurate overall picture of what Calvinism is really all about.
    I too appreciate the diversity that such a format allows. I want to apologize to AA for assuming he approaches matters from a Baptist perspective. I think my incorrect bias that all things are Baptist at DTS was showing. Mea culpa!

    I will just jump to my second question.

    (these questions haven't been planned out, I'm just asking what comes to my mind and what interests me).

    What do you think is the number one thing(s) that Open Theists (on TOL) misunderstand and misrepresent about Calvinism?
    For me, the answer is simple. It revolves around the notion, imported from a fatalistic perspective, that just because God knows all things, that from this knowledge any modicum of freedom on the part of His creatures is impossible.

    Fatalism teaches is that everything we do we do necessarily. For example:

    1. Necessarily if God foreknows x, then x will happen.
    2. God foreknows x.
    3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen.

    This is a fallacious argument because what follows from (1) and (2) is not (3) but (3’):

    3’. Therefore, x will happen.

    In other words, it is unjustified to assert that x will necessarily (or must) happen. Rather, it is the case that x will happen. The logical fallacy is transferring the necessity of the inference to the conclusion. This point is easily illustrated:

    1. Necessarily if Smith is a bachelor, Smith is unmarried.
    2. Smith is a bachelor.
    3. Therefore, Smith is necessarily unmarried.

    Clearly Smith is not necessarily (that is, he must be) unmarried. He just is unmarried, but he is also perfectly free to be married. The valid form of the argument is as follows:

    1. Necessarily if Smith is a bachelor, Smith is unmarried.
    2. Smith is a bachelor.
    3. Therefore, Smith is unmarried.

    This valid form of the argument shows that Smith is free to remain a bachelor or to be married.

    Hence, just because God foreknows x, it does not follow that x must happen, only that it will happen.

    Again, another example:

    Necessity of a hypothetical inference...
    If God foreknew Peter would sin, then Peter cannot refrain from sinning. (Incorrect)

    The interpretation above wrongly interprets God's foreknowledge as impinging upon Peter's moral free agency. The proper understanding is:

    The necessity of the consequent of the hypothetical...
    Necessarily, if God foreknew Peter would sin, then Peter does not refrain from sinning. (Correct)

    In other words, the actions of moral free agents do not take place because they are foreseen, the actions are foreseen because the actions are certain to take place.

    Thus, a simple definition of God’s omniscience is for any person P, P is omniscient if and only if P knows every true proposition and believes no false proposition. Furthermore, it is possible that event x would fail to happen. If this were true— that x would fail to happen—then an omniscient God would know this too, because God knows all true propositions (i.e., it is true that x will fail to happen). Agents are free to either act or refrain according to their greatest inclinations at the moment they so choose; whichever they choose, God will have foreknown that choice.

    AMR
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    Yeah, I definitely agree with AMR's opinion of the top misconception. To put it more simply, it is the idea that Calvinism makes men into mindless robots. In fact, The Graphite was just making a comment or two in that vein a few days back in the chat box, if I remember correctly.

    Regardless, it's a charge I see all the time and it's just not the case. To simply restate what AMR said above, in summary, God's foreknowledge of an event is predicated on the fact of that event's future fulfillment. The future fulfillment of the event is not predicated on God's foreknowledge of it. In some cases, God actively involves Himself in the realization of that event. But not in all.

    Which brings me to the broader issue of determinism -- another of the "biggies" on my list.

    In my experience, the opponents of Calvinism, and the OVers on this site in particular, have a tendency to misunderstand the Calvinist's assertion that nothing happens outside of the will of God. Most often, it is this point of misunderstanding that leads the non-Calvinist to conclude that God willed (in an active sense) the presence of sin and is therefore it's author. This is not the only implication of that misunderstanding, but it's perhaps the most egregious.

    In reality, when the Calvinist speaks of God's decree, he is not necessarily speaking of active involvement. In many cases, God's "decretive will" may be expressed in His opting not to interfere with this or that choice or event, of which He had definite foreknowledge. So, in the case of sin, while God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, He didn't cause them to do so in an active sense. He merely opted not to actively prevent it and in so doing allowed sin to enter the world in order to bring about a greater end.

    In fact, I think I could make a pretty strong case for the idea that the Open View and Calvinism are much closer to each other on this issue than many from either side may realize at first blush.

    Anyway, that's certainly not all I see, but it's a good starting point for discussion, I'd bet, so I'll leave it at that and see what comes of it.

    EDIT: The peanut gallery has commented (by way of rep comment) that they'd be interested to know whether AMR agrees with my take on determinism and the decretive will of God, or if I take a softer stance on that issue than does traditional Calvinism. Perhaps you could address that in a future post, AMR?
    Last edited by assuranceagent; January 23rd, 2010 at 08:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by assuranceagent View Post
    In reality, when the Calvinist speaks of God's decree, he is not necessarily speaking of active involvement. In many cases, God's "decretive will" may be expressed in His opting not to interfere with this or that choice or event, of which He had definite foreknowledge. So, in the case of sin, while God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, He didn't cause them to do so in an active sense. He merely opted not to actively prevent it and in so doing allowed sin to enter the world in order to bring about a greater end….

    EDIT: The peanut gallery has commented (by way of rep comment) that they'd be interested to know whether AMR agrees with my take on determinism and the decretive will of God, or if I take a softer stance on that issue than does traditional Calvinism. Perhaps you could address that in a future post, AMR?
    AA, Knight, and the interested Readers,

    I think it is important to define carefully what we mean by the “decree of God” as the topic will come up often in discussions of Calvinism. Again, I will have to apologize for the length of this post, as we are at the formative stages of the discussion, and we all need to have a solid foundation from which future dialog may proceed.

    The decree of God is His
    1. eternal;
    2. unchangeable;
    3. holy;
    4. wise; and
    5. sovereign purpose.

    The decree of God comprehends at once all things
    1. that ever were; or
    2. will be.

    These things are comprehended in their
    1. causes;
    2. conditions;
    3. successions; and
    4. relations.

    The decree of God also determines the certain future existence of all things.

    The many contents of God’s single eternal purpose are, because we are finite and God is infinite, limited by our faculties to comprehend fully, hence when we speak of the decree of God, we conceive of the decree in partial aspects and/or logical relations, and thusly we, as finite creatures, speak of the decreess of God. So while we may write or speak about the “decrees” of God, we should always remember that there is but one decree.

    Also, we should be on the same page with respect to God’s foreknowledge and God’s foreordination.

    Foreknowledge is an act of God, infinitely intelligent, knowing from eternity, without change, the certain future existence of all events of every type that ever will come to pass.

    Foreordination is an act of the will of God, who is infinitely intelligent, foreknowing, benevolent, and righteous. Foreordination is an act of God from eternity determining the certain future existence of all events of every type that will come to pass. Foreknowledge recognizes the certain future existence of events, while foreordination makes them certainly future.

    In summary:
    1. God's decrees are eternal. Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:4; 3:11; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Cor. 2:7.

    2. They are immutable. Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:9.

    3. They comprehend all events.
    (1) The Scriptures assert this of the whole system in general embraced in the divine decrees. Dan. 4:34, 35; Acts 17:26; Eph 1:11.
    (2) They affirm the same of fortuitous events. Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:29, 30.
    (3) Also of the free actions of men. Eph. 2:10, 11; Phil. 2:13.
    (4) Even the wicked actions of men. Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 13:29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; Rev. 17:17. As to the history of Joseph, compare Gen. 37:28, with Gen. 45:7, 8, and Gen. 50:20. See also Ps. 17:13, 14; Isa. 10:5, 15.

    4. The decrees of God are not conditional. Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14:24, 27; 46:10; Rom. 9:11.

    5. They are sovereign. Isa. 40:13, 14; Dan. 4:35; Matt. 11:25, 26; Rom. 9:11, 15-18; Eph. 1:5, 11.

    6. They include the means. Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2.

    7. They determine the free actions of men. Acts 4:27, 28; Eph. 2:10.

    8. God himself works in his people that faith and obedience which are called the conditions of salvation. Eph. 2:8; Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25.

    9. The decree renders the event certain. Matt. 16:21; Luke 18:31-33; 24:46; Acts 2:23; 13:29; 1 Cor. 11:19.

    10. While God has decreed the free acts of men, the actors have been none the less responsible. Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27, 28.


    AA has asked whether or not his views on the matter are in accordance with “traditional Calvinism”. I offer the following six observations as the traditional Calvinistic views on the matter of events so decreed by God.

    1. Since God has decreed them and, as I have defined above, thusly made them certain to occur in the future, God foreknows all events.

    2. The decree of God relates equally to all events of every type that will occur. This includes free actions of moral agents, the actions of necessary agents, whether these actions be morally right or sinful.

    3. That said, and what is often abused by those that are not well-informed about Calvinistic doctrine, and as AA has alluded to in his post above, things have been eternally decreed by God under certain aspects.

    - God has decreed some things Himself immediately. For example, God’s act to create the universe.

    - God has decreed to do make certain some things through the action of secondary causes, causes which act under laws of necessity, such as physical aspect of nature, e.g., planetary motion.

    - God has decreed to move or to permit free moral agents to act in the exercise of their free moral agency. Nevertheless, despite these distinctions between these classes of events, they are all rendered certain by the decree of God.

    4. While God has decreed all events, it is vitally important to note that while God’s decree includes the ends, His decree encompasses the means, the causes as well as the effects, the conditions as well as the instrumentalities, for all events that will depend upon the same.

    5. While the decree of God determines the certainty of future events, the decree of God neither directly effects or causes no event. (Please read that statement one more time!) But…hang on now…in every case the decree of God provides that these events are rendered certain by causes that are acting in such a manner that is perfectly consistent with the nature of these events in question.

    In other words, when considering every free act of a moral agent, God’s decree provides at once, that:

    1. the agent is a free agent;
    2. the agent’s antecedents and every antecedent of the action in question be what they are;
    3. the present conditions of the action be what they are;
    4. the action by the agent be perfectly spontaneous (i.e., freedom of spontaneity) on the part of the agent; and
    5. it shall be certainly future.

    6. The purposes of God that relate to every kind of event constitute one single, comprehensive intention by God’s comprehending all events. Thus God comprehends the free events as free events, the necessary events as necessary events, all together, including all their causes, their relations, their conditions. This comprehension is one, indivisible system of things, every link of which is essential to the vital integrity of the whole.

    Thus, AA, if you can agree to these traditional distinctions, and I think you may, I don’t see a great gulf in our differences.

    AMR
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    Your powers are weak, old man. Knight's Avatar
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    Uh guys.... if this conversion is to be conducted as if we are just sitting around drinking a beer I just had time to drink an entire six-pack.
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    Quote Originally Posted by assuranceagent View Post
    In reality, when the Calvinist speaks of God's decree, he is not necessarily speaking of active involvement. In many cases, God's "decretive will" may be expressed in His opting not to interfere with this or that choice or event, of which He had definite foreknowledge. So, in the case of sin, while God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, He didn't cause them to do so in an active sense. He merely opted not to actively prevent it and in so doing allowed sin to enter the world in order to bring about a greater end.
    That's very interesting, i'd say you are right that that is extremely close to what any Open Theist would agree with.

    Hooray for common ground!!
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    Your powers are weak, old man. Knight's Avatar
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    AMR you have described us as "free moral agents"...
    Quote Originally Posted by Ask Mr. Religion View Post
    For me, the answer is simple. It revolves around the notion, imported from a fatalistic perspective, that just because God knows all things, that from this knowledge any modicum of freedom on the part of His creatures is impossible.
    In other words, the actions of moral free agents do not take place because they are foreseen, the actions are foreseen because the actions are certain to take place.
    God has decreed to move or to permit free moral agents to act in the exercise of their free moral agency. Nevertheless, despite these distinctions between these classes of events, they are all rendered certain by the decree of God.
    In other words, when considering every free act of a moral agent, God’s decree provides at once, that:

    1. the agent is a free agent;
    2. the agent’s antecedents and every antecedent of the action in question be what they are;
    3. the present conditions of the action be what they are;
    4. the action by the agent be perfectly spontaneous (i.e., freedom of spontaneity) on the part of the agent; and
    5. it shall be certainly future.
    Could you explain to me what you believe a "free moral agent" is?

    Maybe to help me understand you could describe someting that isn't a free moral agent and compare it to something that is a free moral agent.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughtful posts and could you please grab me another beer?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    Uh guys.... if this conversion is to be conducted as if we are just sitting around drinking a beer I just had time to drink an entire six-pack.
    If we were sitting around I or AA could have spoke the words to you that we have written well before you finished your first beer or two.

    Reading that which can be spoken is not quite the same, no? A thirty-minute sermon would comprise approximately 1500-1800 spoken words. Thus, my last post would have required about 15 minutes or so of real-time conversation. Just sayin'.

    I am confident the posts will become shorter overall as the conversation progresses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ask Mr. Religion View Post
    If we were sitting around I or AA could have spoke the words to you that we have written well before you finished your first beer or two.

    Reading that which can be spoken is not quite the same, no? A thirty-minute sermon would comprise approximately 1500-1800 spoken words. Thus, my last post would have required about 15 minutes or so of real-time conversation. Just sayin'.

    I am confident the posts will become shorter overall as the conversation progresses.

    AMR
    I was just teasin' ya. I love your posts!! (although a bit shorter might make the conversation more fruitful)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    AMR you have described us as "free moral agents"...

    Could you explain to me what you believe a "free moral agent" is?

    Maybe to help me understand you could describe someting that isn't a free moral agent and compare it to something that is a free moral agent.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughtful posts and could you please grab me another beer?
    A Sam Adams is on its way to the table, Knight! AA buys the next round!

    The Calvinist majority view is that the mind chooses according to its greatest inclinations at the moment it so chooses. This is commonly referred to as the liberty of spontaneity, or self-determined freedom. In other words, the mind’s desire always precedes the mind’s choosing.

    Thus there is an antecedent cause for every choice made. This antecedent cause is not the determinism spoke of when we speak of choices that are controlled by external forces. Instead we choose because we are caused to choose by the inclination of our will, i.e., self-determination, or the real essence of free will. Our own inclinations are the antecedent causes of all the choices we make.

    So we can exercise genuine freedom in our choices, that is to choose according to our greatest inclinations, yet even when doing so there are still causal antecedent conditions (e.g., character, experiences, circumstances, etc.) which decisively incline our will to respond a certain way without indeed constraining it.

    From this, one can state that a morally free agent is an agent that can make decisions, choosing according to his or her greatest desires (inclinations) at the moment he or she so chooses.

    Now I am not claiming that all choices made by a morally free agent are genuinely free. Obviously, from the definition above, someone with a gun to their head being told to “sit down”, is not making a truly “free” choice when they are forced to comply with the demand. This is because their inclinations at the moment they comply were not really their own inclinations, but were immediately imposed upon them by the presence of a deadly weapon at their head.

    To summarize, the majority view among Calvinists also holds that for every decision a person makes there are causal conditions playing upon that individual’s will so as to incline it decisively and sufficiently in one direction rather than another such that the agent could not have done otherwise, given the prevailing causal influences.

    AMR
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    Quote Originally Posted by assuranceagent View Post
    In reality, when the Calvinist speaks of God's decree, he is not necessarily speaking of active involvement. In many cases, God's "decretive will" may be expressed in His opting not to interfere with this or that choice or event, of which He had definite foreknowledge. So, in the case of sin, while God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, He didn't cause them to do so in an active sense. He merely opted not to actively prevent it and in so doing allowed sin to enter the world in order to bring about a greater end.
    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    That's very interesting, i'd say you are right that that is extremely close to what any Open Theist would agree with.

    Hooray for common ground!!
    And I, too would agree with AA's statement with the minor tweak that God's decree to permit the Fall was not a "merely" bare permission, but a decisive act of His will via His decree.

    AMR
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