Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Free Will and Calvinism

What is the first thing a man must give up when he yields to God?  He surrenders his own will for the Will of God! 

We live in a life governed by our nature, this is true, but our life is not without choices.  When I get up in the morning, one of the first things I must do is use the restroom and I am not "free" to do otherwise - or am I?  Well "nature" says I have to relieve myself, but "nature" does not dictate where!  We are so conditioned (and rightly so!) to use the "proper facilities," but I could "choose" to use the sink, the tub - or step outside to the flower garden, but I choose the toilet.  Or, like a baby or an incontinent adult, I may have no real "choice" in when or where.  The point is, we are given the ability to reason and make choices based upon the reasoning we choose to use.  We are then rightly judged based upon those choices.  We all begin as babies, physically and spiritually; but there comes a time when we must put aside childish things.

Society is the "judge" when it comes to the example above.  Society would frown upon us using a sink, the tub or even the flower garden; and would judge us accordingly.  Now, on a bit higher level - when we are young and unable to reason, all we think about is our self.  As we interact with others we "learn" how to share and please others - at least some of us do.  Some do not "learn" these social interaction skills, perhaps never taught these skills by their parents, and continue to "learn" how to please themselves.  Such is where bullies come from - a child who never learned to yield his/her own will in concern/caring for or about others.

Likewise, moving to the spiritual realm it is not much different!  Left to our own devices, we would seek the hedonist path of pleasing our self.  We must be taught about God in order to know, love and serve Him.  The more we learn about God brings us to choices in our lives where we choose to either give up our will to His, or reject His Will and pursue self satisfaction in life.  Each of us makes such choices all the time! 

Just being raised in a "good home" does not mean every child in that home will make "good choices," or the choices which his/her parents would have liked to see them make.  Children are influenced by parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, bullies, teachers, pastors and even physical/genetic things.  Now "naturally" they would have no control over a physical or genetic trait which may affect their will, but for most of us - the influences are not so "natural."  We can choose to be influenced by good or bad people in our lives.  Sometimes a "bad" person can have a "good" influence too. 

In my own experience, it took me standing up to a bully which dramatically changed the way I was treated by just about everyone else.  That's a long story, but the point is I CHOSE to stop being picked on, I took a chance (which could have resulted in me getting beat up), grabbed that bully by his shirt collar, slammed him up against a wall and said, "LEAVE ME ALONE!"  Instead of fighting me, he yielded - and from that day forward I was no longer picked on by any of the bullies at my school.  What if I had "chose" to not stand up against that bully?  I'm confident that my entire life would be quite different than it is today.

On a similar note, my family moved in the middle of my sophomore year of high school.  At the new school the first group of people I started "hanging" with was what most parents would call "the wrong crowd."  I saw myself actually becoming "one of them," but my mother had instilled upon me a true love for God and what is right - so one day I prayed, "God please get me out of this group of people I have been associating with."  That weekend, my best "friend's" dad died and his mom packed up and moved to another part of town moving him to another school.  Suddenly my contact with "the wrong crowd" was gone.  I seized upon this as a new start - and I found new friends, leaving that culture behind forever.  I can only imagine if I had not willed to get out of that culture and remained in it.  I've seen others in my family affected by their choice to not get out of that culture and how it has ruined their lives and relationship with God too.

I hope you're seeing the point I'm making.  Our lives are governed by our choices.  God, in His sovereignty, GIVES us the ability to make these choices because we are made in His image and likeness.  Determinists, primarily Calvinists, will argue that no one can choose God unless God first chooses and draws them.  They will cite a few verses from Scripture which seem to bolster their position - while ignoring the main thrust of Scripture.  So let me deal with these points.

First off, the "main thrust of Scripture" and especially the Gospel, is that God is LOVE and He wants us to know, love and serve Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength (Mark 12:30; Matt 22:37).  Jesus Himself refers to this as the "first," or "foremost," or "greatest" commandment.  When Jesus was asked what one must DO to inherit eternal life, well the story goes:
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?"  And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." (Luke 10:25-28 NASB).
According to Jesus Himself, salvation is based in LOVE.  And what IS love?
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13 NASB, emphasis mine).

When you love your wife, you aren't giving her something she already has, you are giving of yourself.  The same is true of love given to God, we give of ourselves and likewise when He loves us, He is giving of Himself for God is love.

Back to the Determinist stating God must first draw one in order for them to respond to Him and love Him.  This is truth!  John 6:44 tells us that no man can come to Jesus unless he is first drawn to Him; so when does this drawing occur?  Plainly stated by the same Gospel writer in John 12:32, when He is lifted up ALL MEN will be drawn to Him!  The Determinist who equivocates the drawing with the coming errs here, for the two are wholly separate actions!  Not ALL who are drawn WILL come to Him!  As Matthew 22:14 tells us, "Many are called, but few are chosen."  There is a difference between those called/drawn and those who actually heed the call and come to Him.  Along with the context of Matthew 22:14 we see that even some who heed the call and go in to the Wedding Feast, if you do not put on the Wedding Garment (which was traditionally given by the Wedding Host, so there is no excuse not to be wearing it), even if you "show up" you are not guaranteed a spot in Heaven, for the one who showed up without the Wedding Garment was cast out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth! 

The point is clear... if "many are called, but few are chosen," then it is not God who fails - for that would be impossible - but man who fails to heed the calling AND properly prepare himself for the Wedding Feast.

The Determinist may cry out, "but St. Paul says we're predestined, even before our birth - even before the creation of the universe!"  However, we must point out to the Determinist that this predestining is not done in a vacuum!  In the "Golden Chain of Redemption" (which includes the statement of predestination) they tend to overlook and/or minimize the first "link" in that "chain."  Let us look at it:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 NASB).
The first "link" in that chain is God's FOREKNOWLEDGE.  God is not limited by our linear view of time - He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and therefore He KNOWS us, even before we're born.  He KNOWS what decisions we will make in this linear path of time - and based upon this FOREKNOWLEDGE ("for those whom He foreknew...") He also predestined.  Predestination cannot, therefore, be viewed outside of His foreknowledge of us.
 
Strive then to know, love and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength - for that is what He wills for us to do.

AMDG,
Scott<<<

9 comments:

  1. Calvinism never appealed to me, even as a Protestant. It always struck me as a extremely inhuman creed, for it said God predetermined that he was going to roast some people in hellfire even before they were born. Why even bother to allow them to be born in the first place, if they were predestined to barbeque?

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  2. True juscot, but when you ask a Calvinist that they will respond with something like, "Who are you to question God Almighty?" And quote Romans 9:20 to us - but we're not asking God that question! We're asking a Calvinist to explain HIS version (or her) of a god who would predestine someone to hell - through no fault of their own - simply because "he" fore-ordains it.

    No, it is quite simply the fact that God KNOWS the decisions we will make and based in that foreknowledge, he predestines those to Hell who will choose that route.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  3. The chief error here is as crucial as it is classic: failure to recognize the reprobate's true nature despite Scriptural testimony.

    Without launching into overmuch discourse on this massive topic, I'll attempt a helpful illustration of that facet of Calvinist doctrine/philosophy which is apparently problematic for you in this case.

    juscot & SW: "It always struck me as an extremely inhuman creed, for it said God predetermined that He was going to create pigs, consign them to live in pens, then roast them for food! We're asking the Calvinist to explain why God would predestine a pig to root in filth before becoming lunch, through no fault of the poor pig's!"

    Gentlemen, we err in favoring intuitive judgments (even of ourselves) over what God has revealed about a given topic. God has told us plainly that all men are enemies of God through the Fall; NONE seeks after God or even so much as desires peace with Him, much less to know, love and obey Him. We mustn't think of the reprobate -- of any unregenerate human -- as desiring fellowship with God, or as desiring anything but "only evil continually."

    I don't weep at the sight of a pig romping in filth because I understand that there is no desire in the pig to be or to do otherwise. The pig is, as we say, "happy as a pig in..." You know the rest. Our pig is in his element, happily oblivious and indifferent to anything better.

    Continuing the pig metaphor: God is inscrutably wise and righteous in all He does. This inevitably extends to His orderly arrangement of all Creation; indeed, in the universe born of the very God of order "form necessarily follows function." Pigs, therefore, by God's design have a nature commensurate with His purpose for them. No sane man would lament a hog's life of eating, sleeping and bathing in manure, nor that same hog's eventual slaughter for food. This is because we understand that the pig lived and died according to its divinely appointed purpose -- even according to that swine's own deepest desires, springing as they do from his very nature. Verily, by swine standards ol' Wilbur was in hog heaven!

    In the darkness of our depravity we intuitively cling to the myth that "there is some good in all men," or that "deep down we all just want to love and be loved and know God"; but the Bible says otherwise. As Jeremiah 18, Romans 9 and countless others make clear, the Sovereign Lord creates some for honor and some for wrath. I assure you, gentlemen, that NO ONE will ever land in Hell who did not sincerely wish to be there, far away from God's grace and love. Also, it is important to note that this godward enmity will remain for eternity-future; there will be neither righteous remorse nor confusion in the damned as to how he earned his everlasting estate.

    Your objection, a common one, seems to be that God is unjust in purposefully creating swine as they are with the intent that they live and die as they do! Where is the injustice in that??? Why should it bother us that God designs people/things according to His purpose for them, and then uses them precisely in accord with His design? But for our blindness this is a most praiseworthy outworking of God's wisdom and goodness!

    Moreover, if God graciously should appoint certain of those hogs at the trough to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into human beings that they might glorify and commune with their Creator, is God then obliged to likewise transform all pigs everywhere? Of course not! Now, what of the pigs left behind on all fours in the muck? Does God's kindness to the chosen now make Him unjust in leaving the others to live and die according to their nature and purpose, precisely as they would have done anyway had He chosen NONE for rebirth? God forbid!

    ReplyDelete
  4. aztexan (hereafter "at") wrote:
    > at: The chief error here is as
    > crucial as it is classic: failure
    > to recognize the reprobate's true
    > nature despite Scriptural testimony.
    >
    > at: Without launching into overmuch
    > discourse on this massive topic,
    > I'll attempt a helpful illustration
    > of that facet of Calvinist
    > doctrine/philosophy which is
    > apparently problematic for you in
    > this case.

    sw: Personally, I do not have a problem understanding Calvinist doctrine/philosophy, I just disagree with it - and so does Scripture.

    > at: juscot & SW: "It always struck
    > me as an extremely inhuman creed,
    > for it said God predetermined that
    > He was going to create pigs,
    > consign them to live in pens, then
    > roast them for food! We're asking
    > the Calvinist to explain why God
    > would predestine a pig to root in
    > filth before becoming lunch,
    > through no fault of the poor pig's!"

    sw: I will run with your "pig" analogy, but I'd like to point out that neither juscot or myself referred to pigs. I can see how you're using the analogy, so I'll go with it and point out the fundamental flaw in it.

    > at: Gentlemen, we err in favoring
    > intuitive judgments (even of
    > ourselves) over what God has
    > revealed about a given topic. God
    > has told us plainly that all men
    > are enemies of God through the
    > Fall;

    sw: Oops! I believe John 3:16 says He loves us, ALL of us (the world) and because He loves us so, He sent His only begotten Son to die FOR US. Now, not ALL of us will be saved, but only those who BELIEVE IN HIM. Romans 5:8 reveals that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

    (breaking here)

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  5. (continuing...)

    > at: NONE seeks after God or even so
    > much as desires peace with Him, much
    > less to know, love and obey Him. We
    > mustn't think of the reprobate -- of
    > any unregenerate human -- as desiring
    > fellowship with God, or as desiring
    > anything but "only evil continually."

    sw: Rom. 3:10-18, St. Paul is actually quoting from Psalms 14:1-3 and if we look at the context David is lamenting the fallen away people of Israel and praying that they return to God and are freed from their captivity. Chapter 15 (keep in mind that chapters were artificially added in about the 13th-14th centuries AD) asks "who may abide in Your (God's) tent?" The answer is "He who walks with integrity and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart..." ...pretty much destroying the Calvinist concept of none doing good.

    > at: I don't weep at the sight of a
    > pig romping in filth because I
    > understand that there is no desire in
    > the pig to be or to do otherwise. The
    > pig is, as we say, "happy as a pig
    > in..." You know the rest. Our pig is
    > in his element, happily oblivious and
    > indifferent to anything better.

    sw: As is the "nature" of a pig.

    (Snipping more confirmation that God created pigs to be pigs and we don't lament the life of a pig - that's their nature).

    > at: In the darkness of our depravity
    > we intuitively cling to the myth that
    > "there is some good in all men," or
    > that "deep down we all just want to
    > love and be loved and know God"; but
    > the Bible says otherwise.

    sw: At this point I must remind the reader of MY argument! "aztexan" is going off on what would appear to be a pre-prepared "response" and is not addressing MY argumentation! My point is that God says no man can come to Him unless he is first drawn (my Calvinist friends agree with me up to this point). Now who is drawn and who will come to Him? Noting that "coming" and "drawing" are not the same action nor initiated by the same person(s). So who is drawn? John 12:32 tells us that ALL MEN are drawn to Him when He was lifted up (on the Cross). Therefore ALL MEN are empowered to "come" to Him, for ALL MEN are "drawn" by the Cross. However, NOT all men will "come" to Him.

    (breaking here)

    ReplyDelete
  6. (continuing...)

    > at: As Jeremiah 18, Romans 9 and
    > countless others make clear, the
    > Sovereign Lord creates some for
    > honor and some for wrath.

    sw: Let's see, Jeremiah 18:8 says if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Now does THAT sound like a god which has predetermined the outcome?

    sw: As for Romans 9 (and there aren't "countless others" so that hyperbole is dismissed) we have the example of Jacob whom God loved and Esau, whom God hated. God loved Jacob because he was the child of the promise - Esau was not, though God had compassion on him and made a great nation of Esau too. It also gives the example of God hardening the heart of Pharoah, but He did that to serve the purpose of demonstrating His power and greatness. I would also point to my recent debate on Free Will wherein I affirmed that there are clearly special cases, both of "choosing" and of "hardening" - but these are exceptions, not the rule. As I just previously pointed out, Jeremiah 18:8 demonstrates not only how one can "turn from evil" but also how God can change His mind.

    > at: I assure you, gentlemen, that
    > NO ONE will ever land in Hell who
    > did not sincerely wish to be there,
    > far away from God's grace and love.
    > Also, it is important to note that
    > this godward enmity will remain for
    > eternity-future; there will be
    > neither righteous remorse nor
    > confusion in the damned as to how
    > he earned his everlasting estate.

    sw: Spoken as a true Catholic! What you have just affirmed here is NOT Calvinism, but speaking of how one chooses his everlasting estate.

    (breaking here)

    ReplyDelete
  7. (concluding...)

    > at: Your objection, a common one,
    > seems to be that God is unjust in
    > purposefully creating swine as
    > they are with the intent that they
    > live and die as they do! Where is
    > the injustice in that???

    sw: Well God is not unjust, but Calvin's god most certainly is! Calvinism quickly dismisses or diminishes God's foreknowledge as the key to predestination. The Calvinist's god doesn't utilize foreknowledge, he just saves or damns whomever he wills. That's not justice. On the other hand, Catholicism sees predestination as being determined by God's foreknowledge of mankind. Knowing who we are and the choices we will make, even before we are created - God most certainly can predestine whomever He chooses. BUT! As Jeremiah 18:8 points out - God CAN change His mind! And just what would cause God to change His mind? The behavior of the people.

    > at: Why should it bother us that
    > God designs people/things according
    > to His purpose for them, and then
    > uses them precisely in accord with
    > His design? But for our blindness
    > this is a most praiseworthy
    > outworking of God's wisdom and
    > goodness!

    sw: The blindness here would be the blind eye turned toward the fact that man, unlike a pig, was created in His likeness and image!

    > at: Moreover, if God graciously
    > should appoint certain of those hogs
    > at the trough to be transformed by
    > the Holy Spirit into human beings
    > that they might glorify and commune
    > with their Creator, is God then
    > obliged to likewise transform all
    > pigs everywhere? Of course not! Now,
    > what of the pigs left behind on all
    > fours in the muck? Does God's
    > kindness to the chosen now make Him
    > unjust in leaving the others to
    > live and die according to their
    > nature and purpose, precisely as
    > they would have done anyway had He
    > chosen NONE for rebirth? God forbid!

    sw: I understand your analogy, and it's not bad - except - you have God transforming pigs into something else (humans). Humans who remain reprobate are just as human as those who are enjoying Sanctifying Grace. The difference is that those in Sanctifying (Saving) Grace have not only heard, but heeded His drawing. They BELIEVE in Him, and they are not forced to do so. They LOVE Him, and true love is never forced. This is why my article asks, "What is love?" Which you have not answered.

    AMDG,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  8. After-thought... Well, I guess *I* answered "what is love" in this article, which (again) remains the point of the thesis which carries over from the Free Will Debate recently concluded (and linked above).

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  9. My analogy was in response to your and juscot's initial comments, not necessarily to the article itself; there are too many issues raised in the body of your article to address here. Also, my remarks were not intended to put forth Calvinist doctrine per se, but to aid in assuaging the purely emotion-based misgivings you, juscot and so many others suffer when confronted with the Doctrines of Grace.

    The pig analogy was intended only to demonstrate the baselessness of human bellyaching in response to the reality of election and reprobation. The sole purpose of the illustration is to make plain for the pity-smitten objector that the reprobate -- like a pig in his filth -- is to be pitied only so far, having as he does no affinity for the things of God, and no desire to do aught but wallow in his sin. The soul created to be a vessel of wrath wills and does according to his designed nature, just as does our Mr. Pig. That pigs don't bear the imago Dei is irrelevant here. In sum: "While quite understandable, your sympathy for the damned is excessive, even unto your forsaking in favor of will-worship the plain testimony of Scripture. Your emotions have blinded you to the truth that every sinner gets what he desires, be it grace or justice, life or perdition; and each sinner's desire is deliberately determined by none other than God in accordance with God's purpose in creating him, either for glory or for wrath. Deal with it." Is that somewhat clearer?

    The remarks in your breakdown of my post demonstrate that either (a) you lack even a basic knowledge of the historical Scriptural proofs for Calvinism, or (b) you ignore them and carry on as if such arguments did not exist. I expected a higher level of discussion than the "John 3:16" tactic, but here we are. You are aware that the Bible was not written in English...? Also, have you heard of something called anthropomorphic language (inre: to Jer. 18:8, et al)?

    If you'd like to deal seriously with the Doctrines of Grace, let me suggest familiarizing yourself with Calvinism by immersion in Calvinist sources. A good place to start, for instance, might be Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented by Steele & Thomas. This is a quick and concise read, complete with a handy list of scores (your dismissal of my "hyperbole" notwithstanding) of the best-known and plainest Calvinist proof texts.

    Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Here's hoping you discover the majestic beauty of God's sovereign grace as you seek earnestly to understand Biblical (read: monergistic) soteriology. Be blessed, Mr. Windsor.

    ReplyDelete

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