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.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
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.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from…
The content of this post was authored by J.C. Thibodaux and is posted on his behalf.
Many Calvinists point to such concepts as total depravity and bondage of the will to make the case that the will is not free, but don’t realize that they hit cleanly beside the point in that we agree that the human will is by nature enslaved to sin.
One cannot correctly understand the Arminian/Synergist view of libertarian free will without first understanding prevenient grace. Reformed theologians are correct in saying that the human will is in bondage to sin stemming from the sin of Adam,
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)
Thus by nature, human beings are blind and hard-hearted towards the gospel and cannot believe in Christ of their own accord. To overcome the power of the sinful nature, something stronger than sin must enter into the equation, which can only come from God. Jesus said in John 6:44,
I asked this question on a discussion board when a Calvinist rightly pointed out that the LORD gets angry at the sinful actions of fallen men. There is no doubt that sin angers the LORD. The anger of the LORD is expressed in numerous passages yet this truth causes me to ask the Calvinist “why”? How is it that an omniscient God could possibly get angry at what He supposedly (in the Calvinist tradition) causes or ordains? If God issues a commandment that He has purposefully ordained to be broken, is it not an expression of hypocrisy to become angry at what is His very design? I do not think the Calvinist can address this inquiry in an honest manner. In fact I know from my experiences with a few that the response is to engage in an ad hominem fallacy and accuse me of presenting a straw man albeit unidentified. Contrary to the diversions, the question I pose is valid and crucial to understanding the religious philosophy of Calvinism.
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let…
What did Paul mean when he made the statements that there is “none who seeks after God,” or that man’s “throat is an open tomb”? (Rom. 3.10-18) The majority of Calvinists are convinced that Paul…
The subject of the Will of God was a topic of interest for James Arminius. Many have wondered if he was a Molinist. Richard Muller acknowledges that Arminius read from Molina,1 but Arminius never claimed to be a Molinist.
However, Arminius left in his writings the notion that perhaps he was at least influenced by Molina’s pattern of thought on what God knows and what God has willed according to that knowledge. Muller noted
- The divine knowledge of possibility, since it is knowledge of what things can come into existence, is also a knowledge of the way in which all possibles could exist ideally or perfectly, without defect and a knowledge of impossibility as well. Arminius even argues an order in the divine knowledge of possibles. Thus God knows, first, ‘what things can exist by his own primary act.’
I apologize for being a little late this week. Yesterday and today have been rather hectic, and I don’t like to rush this. So let us begin chapter 4:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
Remember that this is a letter and that the chapter divisions came later. John has not fully changed thoughts here, but has flowed from speaking of the Holy Spirit to speaking about false spirits. This coincides with his message in the last section as well which is based on true and false Christians.
The subject of God’s knowledge has been a seed bed of debate lately. Modern day Molinists believe that their system offers a middle-ground approach to theology, avoiding both Calvinism and Arminianism. One of my professors…
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)…
It is a popular teaching today that once someone becomes a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, he or she will never cease to be God’s child regardless of behavior and continuance in saving faith.
In order to express this teaching, it is reasoned from human experience to that which is spiritual and a strong distinction is made between “fellowship” and “relationship”. It is said that a believer can harm and even sever one’s fellowship with God while somehow maintaining a saving relationship. The only way to express this concept is through human analogy.
Neil T. Anderson gives us the basis of this argumentation in Stomping Out the Darkness, co-authored by Dave Park. Under the heading: There’s A Difference Between Relationship and Fellowship, Anderson writes…