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

  1. #61
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    OK, lets move on. Earlier we talked about inclinations and that men make every choice based on their strongest inclination.

    So here is my vague-ish question.

    How are a man's inclinations and God's decree's related?

    I.e., did God decree everything that we are inclined to choose? Or did God set into motion an outcome that would be fulfilled by our inclinations? (I'm not really sure if those two things are actually different) Either way, I would like to try to understand the relationship between God's decree and mankinds inclinations (under the Calvinistic perspective).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    So... as for those that enter the wrong gate... God doesn't decree that they choose the wrong gate, instead He merely doesn't decree that they choose the right gate. To be honest... I can't see how that is even the slightest bit different than God choosing the wrong gate for them.

    Imagine God telling you... "I am not going to force you to make the wrong choice but I am going to prevent you from making the right choice."
    No. I can see that the matter of decree is a sticking point. Which is why both AMR and I listed it as one of our top misconceptions.

    God DOES decree that those who choose the wrong gate will do so. But that does NOT mean that God actively intervenes to cause them to make such a decision. Rather it means that God makes a conscious decision NOT to intervene to cause them to choose otherwise.

    God tells the reprobate: "I am not going to force you to make the wrong choice, but I am also not going to prevent you from making the wrong choice."

    To the elect, God says: "I am not going to force you to make the wrong choice. In fact, I'm going to prevent you from making the wrong choice."

    God needn't intervene to bring about evil. We will do that all on our own. Good, however, does require intervention on God's part as we are fallen and utterly sinful.

    To say that a thing is a part of the decree of God is to say that God foreknew it and actively chose to allow it, or actively chose to intervene to bring it about. As AMR said, it's not fatalism.

    The Open Theist believes that God knows "with a high degree of certainty" that a man will commit a sin prior to his actual act since God knows that man so well. The Open Theist will further assert that God does not generally act to prevent that sin from occurring, despite His knowledge of its eminence. In that way, God wills to allow the sin to occur. This is not too much different from the Calvinist view of decree regarding an individual event in the sense we are discussing here. The difference lies in the Calvinist's assertion that God knew of the event from eternity past and chose to allow it as a part of an overarching and sovereign plan to bring about His ultimate good pleasure.

    As I said before, the difference is one of the extent and timing of foreknowledge. But the nature of the decision to allow the event is the same. It was an active choice not to intervene, in the case of evil, bringing the event under the sovereignty of God without removing any of the culpability for it's commission from the creature.

    Do you follow me? I think this is a really important, core issue to resolve if we are to clear up misconceptions. It's clear that we aren't yet past this one. I want to make sure that we are before we move on.

  3. #63
    ...then I woke up. Knight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by assuranceagent View Post
    God DOES decree that those who choose the wrong gate will do so. But that does NOT mean that God actively intervenes to cause them to make such a decision. Rather it means that God makes a conscious decision NOT to intervene to cause them to choose otherwise.

    God tells the reprobate: "I am not going to force you to make the wrong choice, but I am also not going to prevent you from making the wrong choice."

    To the elect, God says: "I am not going to force you to make the wrong choice. In fact, I'm going to prevent you from making the wrong choice."
    What would be the difference?

    I whipped up a little story to express my understanding of what you are telling me. It's called...

    The guardian, the room, and the exit.
    Imagine a group of 100 people standing in a circular enclosed room. The only thing in the room are 10 doors that surround the walls of the room. The people can't see what is behind any of the doors, but they can't stay inside the room because they will starve to death (there is no life sustaining resources inside the room). On the other side of each door is certain death, one door contains a fiery furnace, one door opens up to a den of savage tigers, one door contains a giant meat grinding machine, etc. All the doors lead to certain death. Yet one door leads safely out of the room to freedom, i.e., salvation.

    There is a guardian in the room. He guards all of the doors and no one in the room has the strength to overpower him. The guardian tells the people they can choose any door they wish to choose to leave the room but once they choose a door they must go through it. All the doors are locked but when a person is ready to choose a door the guardian unlocks the door and lets that person go through the door of their choice. The guardian knows which door is the door that leads to freedom. In fact, he is even willing to give clues as to which door the people should choose. This comes as a bit of relief to the people in the room.

    Yet unbeknownst to the people in the room...

    The guardian has pre-selected 10 of the people to go through the correct door. In fact, he will not let these 10 people choose any door except the door that leads to freedom. Furthermore, he allows/encourages these 10 people to attempt to convince the remaining 90 that they should choose likewise (which they proceed to do). Now as for the remaining 90 people... the remaining 90 are allowed to pick any door they wish to pick as long as it's not the correct door. If any of the remaining 90 people happen to choose the correct door the guardian blocks that door and tells them they must choose another door.

    That is the scenario you have described in your last couple of posts.

    Either that... or an incredible plot-line for a really cool sci-fi tv series.

    God needn't intervene to bring about evil. We will do that all on our own. Good, however, does require intervention on God's part as we are fallen and utterly sinful.
    Are you saying that future is open when it comes to sinful choices?

    If a man is deciding between two false gods, is that choice free from God's decree?

    Lets say there is a man and he is deciding if he wants to be a Hindu or a Bhuddist, does God leave that choice open? Or does God ultimately decree that choice as well?

    Thanks for any clarification you can add to my follow-up questions.
    Last edited by Knight; February 6th, 2010 at 12:13 PM.
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  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    OK, lets move on. Earlier we talked about inclinations and that men make every choice based on their strongest inclination.

    So here is my vague-ish question.

    How are a man's inclinations and God's decree's related?

    I.e., did God decree everything that we are inclined to choose? Or did God set into motion an outcome that would be fulfilled by our inclinations? (I'm not really sure if those two things are actually different) Either way, I would like to try to understand the relationship between God's decree and mankinds inclinations (under the Calvinistic perspective).

    Oh and I'm getting mighty dry.... can you please order me a Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout??
    Bartender, another round over here, please!

    Let’s refresh ourselves concerning an earlier portion of my post on the decree:

    Quote Originally Posted by ”AMR”
    God has decreed to move or to permit free moral agents to act in the exercise of their free moral agency…

    …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.
    The majority of Calvinists hold to what is known as compatibilistic freedom: the view that free will (i.e., choosing according to our greatest desires) and determinism coexist. This view is most clear from Scripture in that Scripture teaches that God is sovereign and man is responsible, therefore these two views must not be contradictory, they must be compatible. In fact, attempting to reconcile these two juxtapositions in any other way than their compatibility compromises either the sovereignty of God or the moral free agency of man.

    EXCURSUS: In this post, I are going to be shifting terms from what I have previously written. This may cause some confusion if the reader is not keeping up with the discussion. I am introducing a new term, compatibilism. Whenever I write moral free agents or moral agents in this 1:2 discussion, I am always assuming compatibilistic freedom. So, in this post, while I am writing “compatibilists”, I could have just as easily written moral agents or morally free agents. The terms will be synonymous in this discussion. In others words, I have not started talking about something different with respect to the moral agency of man from what I have already written.

    Compatibilists choose according to what most appeals to them when they choose. But they are not fully in control of the appeal of each choice before them. As previously discussed, our decisions are in large measure influenced by personal characteristics, likes, dislikes, parents, environment, etc. In other words there are limitations on who a person is and what the person desires and wills. Thus, the person’s freedom is exercised within these limitations. Here the question arises, “Who set up these factors?”. The proper answer is “God did.”

    Thus, a compatibilist is free to choose among various options. But their choice will be influenced by who they are. Their freedom must be understood as their ability to choose among options in light of who they are. And who they are is a result of God’s decision and activity. God is in control of all the circumstances (likes, dislikes, parents, environment, etc.) that bear on their situation in life. God may bring to bear (or permit to be brought to bear) factors that will make a particular option appealing, even powerfully appealing, to the moral free agent (the compatibilist).

    Compatibilist free will states that a person is restricted and affected by his nature, and this nature, where fallen or regenerated, not only affects his free will choices, but also limits his ability to equally choose among different options.

    God’s creatures can do what they want, but what they want is determined by God because God is working within the person to direct choices according to His plan (the decree). “He works in us to will and to do, according to his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). An agent who enjoys compatibilistic freedom does not suffer divine compulsion to act in a manner contrary to the desires the agent possesses.

    This is the compatibilist or soft-determinist view, which argues that genuine human freedom and moral responsibility are in fact compatible with divine determinism. According to this understanding, human actions are free if a person is acting voluntarily, according to his or her desires. God can sovereignly determine these free decisions so long as the causal forces God utilizes do not force the person to choose or act against his or her will. In other words, God actively, decisively and non-coercively shapes human desires, and then the individual freely chooses to act according to those desires.

    Now the reader may wonder, well, if the unsaved person can do nothing but sin, how is that considered free? The Calvinist will respond, we all agree that God is free and therefore to suggest that man can't make free choices simply because he can do nothing but sin would also imply that God can't make free choices because He can do nothing but good!

    God's sovereign choice always intersects with the moral agent’s free choices. This intersection is known within theology as the doctrine of concurrence. On concurrence, Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology writes:

    The cooperation of the divine power with all subordinate powers, according to the pre-established laws of their operation, causing them to act and to act precisely as they do.

    We can see this concurrence illustrated in the case of Pharaoh in Exodus. God tells Moses that he will harden Pharaoh's heart, and we see throughout the narrative that in fact God's does harden Pharaoh's heart. However, we also see in the narrative that Pharaoh hardens his own heart.

    In another example, Joseph's brothers did exactly what they wanted to do when they sold Joseph into slavery. God did not force them to do it.

    But, we must not fall into the error of limiting God's freedom. We must admit that God can always thwart human designs. Though we choose according to our desires, our very actions are made under God (with the enabling that God grants us). We are free, but God's freedom is always larger. We are never autonomous.

    The philosopher Sarte argued that God could not be real in the face of human freedom. Sarte’s conception of freedom was autonomy and anything less was not freedom. Autonomy means basically self rule or self law, from auto (self) and nomos (law). Sarte’s basic idea was that to be truly free we must have no accountability to anyone outside of ourselves.

    Naturally such a view would inject a genuine contradiction into Scripture’s teachings (1 Peter 1:19-20, Acts 17:28, Isa. 10:15) concerning God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Instead, the claim of man seeking autonomy is nothing but an illicit reach of dependent creatures seeking to elevate themselves to God’s level. The actual reality is clear when we examine Scripture: God is free, moral creatures are free, but God is freer than His moral creatures. And when we start to argue a position that assumes God’s freedom is limited by His creatures’ freedom, we are making His creatures sovereign.

    How often we have heard someone say: "Well, God saves everyone that He possibly can. God does the best He can, but He will never violate our will." To this, the Calvinist responds, “The problem with this sort of sentiment is that before God invaded our hearts, we were but slaves of sin. In regenerating the lost, God elevates our wills.”

    AMR
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  5. #65
    ...then I woke up. Knight's Avatar
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    AMR, I am not gonna kid ya... much of what you say goes over my head. I mean... I understand all the words but the concepts don't add up in a logical way in my head. Certainly that isn't your fault, instead I'm convinced it's my own shortcomings. I'm not much of a theologian and when I hear some of those terms and complicated explanations my eyes glaze over and I lose my way.

    I wish so badly that the things you tell me could be boiled down into laymen's terms so a knucklehead such as myself could understand them better. Ya know... maybe like a "Calvinism for Dummies".

    More than anything I want to just say... "oh, I get what you are saying now."

    Yet compatiblism has me baffled.

    Compatible is defined as....

    1. capable of existing or living together in harmony: the most compatible married couple I know.

    2. consistent; congruous (I think this definition best fits our topic)

    And therefore when you say that God has decreed everything that has ever happened in every detail, and... man has freewill it doesn't add up. Those two concepts are not consistent. So then I ask you for clarification and you kindly spend a good deal of time composing a post that states the reason these two items can both be true is "compatiblism", I'm still left wanting.

    It seems to me that compatiblism is just a word that means two things are compatible/consistent. It doesn't explain how, or why, they are compatible, it just says they are.

    If two things are truly compatible then they define themselves as such. For instance... objects that have four straight sides are compatible with rectangles. It isn't compatiblism that makes them consistent, instead it's their very nature that makes them consistent (they both have four straight sides and therefore they can be described as consistent).

    Circles and rectangles are not consistent in that same regard. Circles do not have any straight sides, while rectangles have four straight sides.

    Imagine if someone told you... "circles and rectangles are the same." And you rightly responded... "well no, circles and squares are actually not the same. Circles have no straight sides while rectangles have four straight sides." And the person responded "Compatiblism! Compatiblism makes circles and rectangles the same." You might rightly be a tad confused at that response.

    A word cannot remove a contradiction.

    If true freewill and God decreeing everything were actually compatible they would be compatible without needing a word to make them compatible.

    It's as if we are answering a question with part of the question...
    Question: Are these two things compatible?
    Answer: Compatiblism.



    Therefore my next question is as follows:

    In what way are freewill and God decreeing our choices compatible? What makes them compatible?
    Last edited by Knight; February 8th, 2010 at 05:18 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight View Post
    In what way are freewill and God decreeing our choices compatible? What makes them compatible?
    Knight,

    I am not buying the “Aw, shucks, I am just a knucklehead” routine. I assume it is nothing but tongue-in-cheekiness. If I thought you were the dullard you keep implying we would not be having this discussion. I think maybe we have to switch to some near-beer brand from here on out.

    As previously stated:

    Compatibilist free will states that a person is restricted and affected by his nature, and this nature, where fallen or regenerated, not only affects his free will choices, but also limits his ability to equally choose among different options.

    God’s creatures can do what they want, but what they want is determined by God because God is working within the person to direct choices according to His plan (the decree). “He works in us to will and to do, according to his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). An agent who enjoys compatibilistic freedom does not suffer divine compulsion to act in a manner contrary to the desires the agent possesses.

    God's sovereign decree includes the certain futurition of the working out of His will via the free agency of His creatures, who choose according to their greatest desires. That’s compatibilism.

    AMR
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  7. #67
    ...then I woke up. Knight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ask Mr. Religion View Post
    God's sovereign decree includes the certain futurition of the working out of His will via the free agency of His creatures, who choose according to their greatest desires. That’s compatibilism.
    There is a word for it but it's not compatibilism.

    I will contemplate your last post later tonight when I have more time to think it through.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ask Mr. Religion View Post
    Knight,

    I am not buying the “Aw, shucks, I am just a knucklehead” routine. I assume it is nothing but tongue-in-cheekiness.If I thought you were the dullard you keep implying we would not be having this discussion.
    Don't sell me short. You would be surprised at what a dullard I am.

    I think maybe we have to switch to some near-beer brand from here on out.
    Oh no.... if I'm gonna drink bread, I want it to be whole grain.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ask Mr. Religion View Post
    God's sovereign decree includes the certain futurition of the working out of His will via the free agency of His creatures, who choose according to their greatest desires. That’s compatibilism.
    Yet just because you call it compatible, it doesn't make it so.

    Those concepts are not compatible.

    No matter how many times you call freewill and determinism compatible they will always remain mutually exclusive.
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    Hey guys... I haven't forgotten things. I'll try to catch up as time allows. I've had a sick little one, I've been conducting performance reviews at work, and I've been shorthanded to boot.

    Sorry to be so scarce this past week or so...

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    Quote Originally Posted by assuranceagent View Post
    Hey guys... I haven't forgotten things. I'll try to catch up as time allows. I've had a sick little one, I've been conducting performance reviews at work, and I've been shorthanded to boot.

    Sorry to be so scarce this past week or so...
    No problem... no pressure.

    I will wrap this thread up on Friday. I let it go an extra week because I thought it deserved it. Thanks for all the effort and fellowship.
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    OK, clearly this thread is winding down.

    I will give both of you the last word.

    Please give us your final thoughts. Are there any other things you would like to let folks know about Calvinism? Anything else you would like to clear-up or describe?

    I'd like to thank both AssuranceAgent and Ask Mr Religion for taking the time to discuss this issue with me. It's be fun and informative.
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    I would like to thank Knight for setting up this 1:2 discussion. I genuinely appreciated his desire to further explore Calvinism with assuranceagent and myself.

    I hope that the discussion has reset some misconceptions and provided more knowledge about the doctrines of grace to others. As this discussion and the parallel discussion thread indicate, not all Calvinists agree on every single matter. Folks that attempt to lump everyone into a one-size-fits-all category based on exposure to the few Calvinists who actually claim the label in these forums should be mindful of these differences.

    For anyone wanting to know more about Reformed theology I recommend the following three inexpensive books by R.C. Sproul, who has a distinctive way of explaining complex topics in easily understood style:

    1. What is Reformed Theology?

    2. The Holiness of God

    3. Chosen by God

    Lastly, a very useful internet resource that won’t disappoint can be found here:

    Calvinism and the Reformed Faith

    The Lord willing, I will return to active participation in the TOL forums next month. “See” you all then.

    For what He did for us,
    AMR (Patrick)
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