Recently we posted a list of resources that refute Jonathan Edwards and Calvinistic compatibilism and defend genuine free will (http://evangelicalarminians.org/refuting-edwards-and-calvinist-compatibilism-and-arguments-against-genuine-free-will/). Some of them are pretty hefty. So if you would like to get to the…
This post completes our series on Ralston’s defense of the Arminian belief in self-determinism. This is the grand finale where Ralston tackles the favorite argument against free-will, the doctrine of motives as presented primarily by…
Thomas Ralston now tackles the necessitarian objection that God’s foreknowledge of our actions renders the power of self-determination impossible. My comments are in bold print.
II. The next grand objection to the doctrine of free agency is, that it is supposed to be irreconcilable with the Scripture account of the divine prescience.
Necessitarians argue that free agency, in the proper sense, implies contingency; and that contingency cannot be reconciled with the divine foreknowledge. It is admitted by Arminians, and the advocates of free agency generally, that the foreknowledge of God extends to all things great and small, whether necessary or contingent – that it is perfect and certain.
Thomas Ralston now begins to examine and respond to various objections posed by “necessitarians” against the Arminian view of self-determinism. My comments are in bold print.
WE propose in this chapter, to examine some of the principal objections which have been urged against the view taken in the preceding chapter of the freedom of the will. Those most worthy of notice are the following, viz.:
I. It is said to be absurd in itself.
II. It is said to be irreconcilable with the Scripture account of the divine prescience.
III. It is said to conflict with the doctrine of motives.
We propose a respectful attention to each of these grand objections.
I. It is alleged that the view we have taken of the proper freedom of the will is absurd in itself.
Thomas Ralston now concludes his positive arguments in favor of self-determinism. My comments are in bold print.
(4) In conclusion, upon this part of the subject, we think it proper briefly to notice the absurdity of attempting to reconcile the doctrines of necessity with the proper freedom and accountability of man.
Ralston continues with his defense of free moral agency from Scripture. My comments are in bold print.
(2) In the next place, the Scriptures everywhere address man as a being capable of choosing; as possessing a control over his own volitions, and as being held responsible for the proper exercise of that control.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, we read: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” And in Joshua 24:15: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Now, to choose is to determine or fix the will; but men are here called upon to choose for themselves, which, upon the supposition that their will is, in all cases, fixed necessarily by antecedent causes beyond their control, is nothing better than solemn mockery.
Thomas Ralston begins his appeal to Scripture with his third evidence for self-determinism in his Elements of Divinity. My comments are in bold print.
3. Our third evidence of man’s proper free agency is founded upon the divine administration toward him, as exhibited in the Holy Scriptures.
Here we shall perceive that revelation beautifully harmonizes with nature; and those clear and decisive evidences of our free agency, which, as we have seen, are derived from experience and observation, are abundantly confirmed by the book of God.
We continue with Ralston’s second argument for self-determinism from his Elements of Divinity. My comments are in bold print.
2. Our next argument for the self-determining power of the mind over the will is founded upon the history of the world in general.
We now continue with Ralston’s defense of free will from his Elements of Divinity. My comments are in bold print.
II. We proceed now to consider some of the leading arguments by which the free moral agency of man, as briefly defined above, is established.
1.We rely upon our own consciousness.
Thomas Ralston was an early Methodist theologian. The following is taken from his Elements of Divinity (Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD). My comments will be in bold print.
The great question in this controversy is not whether a man can will “as he pleases,” for that is the same as to ask whether he can will as he does will. But the question is, Can a man will, without being constrained to will as he does, by something extrinsic to himself acting efficiently upon him? This is the real question on which depends the freedom of the mind in willing.