Since we have run a few posts on compatibilism in the past couple weeks, I thought I would draw your attention to an excellent full article we recently added on free will and determinism: Robert Hamilton, “Philosophical Reflections on Free Will”
Monthly Archives For August 2008
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
This is a passage talking about assurance. Now we who have been involved in the C/A debate know about assurance. Calvinists often say that they are assured of their salvation because they have been predestined before the foundation of the world, and know that they cannot loose what they have been given.
Monergism.com admitted, “It should be noted that this position [that of Compatibilism] is no less deterministic than hard determinism ~ be clear that neither soft nor hard determinism believes man has a free will.” So, the Arminian is not misrepresenting the view of Compatibilists in admitting the same.
For the Compatibilist, the major contention for a libertarian view of human freedom is reduced to a matter of genuine choices. If God foreknew what a person would choose (and we are not speaking of choosing Christ at this point), and only what God foreknows is actually going to happen, then how can one admit that the human being has any real choices? What happens, happens necessarily.
Please click on the attachment to view Robert Hamilton, “Philosophical Reflections on Free Will”: Hamilton. Philosophical Reflections on Free Will
It is no secret that the majority of Arminians hold to what is known as libertarian free will. We believe in such a thing because we see evidence for it throughout the Bible. God gives men and women options from which to choose and calls for them to choose wisely. Many times rewards and punishments, respectively, are distributed according to the choice one makes.
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem.” The Arminian, however, is unaware of any problem. But I digress. “This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”
As an Arminian, one frustration I have is with the dominance of the Calvinist view on the internet. In this post I want to do a little musing on why this is the case. Why is the Calvinist web presence so dominant?
Reasons for the Calvinist dominance on the internet:
1) Calvinists are writers and authors. They love studying doctrine. They are articulate. Arminians are too busy “changing the world” to spend time writing. Unfortunately these differences in approaches have resulted in a disproportionate Calvinist presence on the web.
2) Calvinists have lots of big names: Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, White, etc. These big names have big web sites, with lots of free resources. There are no really big Arminian names out there.
3) Monergism.com: This is an excellent resource that I use myself. All free. All Reformed.
I’m sure you have heard it before: “I used to be an Arminian, so recognize that I know what I’m talking about.”
The conversion argument is actually a common argument among all forms of debate, especially religon. It is the argument of personal experience and a claim to understand both sides. I’ve used it myself before, since I have changed my mind on several topics.
It is worthy to note that we are not dealing with a logical fallacy here. First of all, one cannot refute personal experience. I cannot argue with you about whether or not you truly experienced something: I wasn’t there. Secondly, if one was fully committed to one point of view, and understood it, and then changed sides, then there is probably a truly powerful reason for it. Finally, given the same two conditions of the second point, the person would understand both conditions.
Well, since so many Calvinists have in fact converted from an Arminian position, shouldn’t this argument bear a lot of wieght? Well, in this case, no. Why?
Among such biblical texts as Romans 8 and 9 and Ephesians 1, Calvinists are convinced that John 6 secures the notion that Jesus taught a Calvinistic soteriology. I am convinced, however, that Calvinists tend to see Calvinism in every text. I know. I used to be one.
My zeal for Calvinism clouded my interpretation of Scripture. Whatever scriptures I encountered which contradicted Calvinism, I had to find a way to make it mean something other than its simplistic meaning. I am not saying that all Calvinists are necessarily guilty of this very thing. But I will admit that I was immersed in the writings of John Calvin, John Piper, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Iain Murray, John Owen, Martin Luther, Loraine Boettner, John Murray, and others, and was raised, spiritually speaking, on a strict Calvinistic hermeneutic of Classical Reformed theology.
Toward a Definition of “All People”
James M. Leonard
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
It is a real shame that John never made it to the third chapter in his other epistles, because he seems to have this magic touch with the sixteenth verse of third chapters. Oh well.
Coming out of his analogy of Cain as the bad example, John is commanding us to do the opposite. While Cain laid down his brother’s life for his own, Christ laid down His own life for us. Thus, we should emulate Christ, laying down our own lives for our brothers.
What decree is that? The “dreadful” decree I am referring to today is the decree of Reprobation, its consequence being Unconditional Election (for how could there be one without the other?). Now, calling it “dreadful,” while I would agree, actually comes not from me or any other Arminian today, but from John Calvin himself!
Calvin wrote, “The human mind, when it hears this doctrine, cannot restrain its petulance, but boils and rages as if aroused by the sound of a trumpet. Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated (Bernard, in Die Ascensionis, Serm. 2).
Compatibilism is the desperate attempt of Calvinists to have their cake and eat it too. It is the claim that humans are still responsible for their sins because they wanted to commit them, but that God still predetermined their actions because He shaped the person’s will by molding the internal motives of that person. This way, God has determined sin without being responsible for it, and humans are responsible without possessing any level of causation.
But this doesn’t really work.
The Synod of Dort was a regional conference that was primarily motivated by political powerbrokers. Theodore Beza, John Calvin’s direct successor and first systematizer of Calvinism sent Arminius, the brightest bulb in the Calvinist box himself educated by Theodore Beza, to Holland in 1589 to put down the theological arguments of Koornheert, an educated layman, who had been writing and publicly arguing against Beza’s supralapsarian theory of divine decrees. Significant to the context of the period is understanding that as Rome’s grip on the lowland countries eased, Calvinism as a political power gained influence and political power. As such, a challenge to Beza who defined orthodox Calvinism became not only a theological challenge but a political challenge as well. Although forgotten by many, the political context of Dort cannot be understated in the state church system so prevalent at the time.
Dennis M. Rokser is the pastor of Duluth Bible Church in Duluth, Minnesota, and has authored a publication entitled: “Seven Reasons NOT to ask Jesus into your heart.” Here is a link to his article, and I will provide a response:
What is it about your theology that you feel you must let go of in order to hang on to something else? Some have claimed that Calvinists must let go of free will in order to hang on to God’s sovereignty. Others have said that Arminians have to let go of God’s sovereignty in order to hang on to free will. Question: Cannot both be held on to?
Now, some will say that I am starting to sound more like an Amyraldian than an Arminian (http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/amyraldi.htm). Those four point Calvinists want it all! Really, all I am asking is, Why can God not be considered sovereign AND human beings experience free will? After all, Arminians believe this is the common experience we all share in God’s world every day. Let me explain.
12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
Remember here that John is not mentioning Cain here to discourage us from killing. John here is recalling the word of our Lord:
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24 AV)
On one of the discussion boards I browse through, I noticed a comment by a hard determinist (extremist in my view) who made a bold statement regarding this passage. He indicated that Arminians use this verse to somehow justify a free will mindset focused on doing good works. The comment struck me as uniquely ignorant of how Arminians and most of the body of Christ view this passage. Of course there are variations upon this theme and differences in how the verse should be applied to us however I have never conversed with a fellow Arminian who viewed the passage as focused on works born out of our “free will”.
A Wesleyan Interpretation of Romans 5-8
From the Wesleyan Theological Journal
Any assignment whose parameters are set by others can be threatening. After accepting this assignment, I found this one to be so. First, it was to be a Wesleyan interpretation. Given the many “Wesleyanisms”‘ and the problem Isbell2 had in defining a “Wesleyan position” on the “old man,” I was not too hopeful. I was asked to interpret Romans 6-8 from this Wesleyan perspective. For reasons that I shall discuss below, I was not able to be that restrictive, but found myself forced to consider Romans 5-8 as a unit.
Systematic Theology in a Wesleyan Mode
From the Wesleyan Theological Journal
H. Ray Dunning
Predestination As Temporal Only
From the Wesleyan Theological Journal
J. Kenneth Grider
One of the most interesting theological finds I have made in recent years is that God’s predestinating of us does not seem to have to do with eternal destiny.
God does indeed predestinate us in certain ways. Six times the word for “to predestinate” is used in the NT. Besides the instances of cognates of that very word “proorizo,” other “pro” words are found in both Testaments which also show that God makes pre-decisions on various matters. And God sometimes makes decrees, even as kings do, according to Scripture. But my recent study suggests that none of these references has to do with our eternal destiny, but only with other matters.