Commands and Invitations for the Impossible

, posted by Godismyjudge

Outline of Edwards’ Arguments in Part III.IV

Commands inconsistent with LFW

  1. God commands the acts of the will, not the acts of the body executing the will’s commands.
  2. If there’s a sequence of acts of the will, the first act that drives the train is the one God’s commands pertain to.
  3. Whatever comes before that first act of the will isn’t the subject of the command.
  4. But some Arminians say the act of the soul determines the act of the will. So that act of the soul isn’t subject to divine commands.
  5. Other Arminians say nothing causes the acts of the will, but then they happen by accident and pure chance. And if they happen by pure chance, there’s no point to God regulating them with a law.

Inability and Responsibility

  1. Disobedience implies a moral inability to obey, because some moral cause must have determined the sin’s occurrence
  2. Natural inability is incompatible with responsibility
  3. if the will complies with a command, but the body is hindered, the man is excused
  4. Natural inability consists of either lack of strength, lack of understanding or an obstacle

Commands and invitations are the same thing, except commands arise from authority and invitation from goodness, so if commanding the impossible isn’t insincere, inviting someone to do the impossible isn’t insincere either.

My Response

Clearly Edwards is leveraging some of his arguments discussed here, so regarding the whole determinism vs. indeterminism discussion I see no need to rehash things. Also, the moral/natural distinction needs attention, but since it’s a theme in Part IV, I will wait till we get there.

Sincerity of Invitations

I will make a comment about invitations. Invitations are not commands, but that’s not that important because the invitation to believe is joined with a command. (1 John 3:23) But invitations do imply a desire on the part of the inviter that the invitee accept the invitation. Otherwise the offer is insincere.

If Bob invites Sue to a party, secretly hoping she doesn’t come, Bob is being insincere. Bob’s outward action of inviting Sue, doesn’t match his inward desire for her not to come.

Calvinists are quick to point out that God’s offer is true. Anyone who believes will be saved. Even this is debatable, but granting it for the moment, it’s actually besides the point. Let’s say Sue accepts and shows up for the party. Bob says “aw rats”, but let’s her in. Bob did come through, so his offer was true. But it still mislead Sue. What might Sue think of Bob if she found out he didn’t want her there? Wouldn’t she be upset and offended? She would, because Bob mislead her into thinking he wanted her to accept.

In the same way God’s offer to the reprobate is insincere, if he doesn’t want them to accept.

Commanding the Impossible

God cannot issue a command to do the impossible, as such would violate His justice. On the other hand, man can’t force God to rescind a command, by incapacitating themselves.

Let’s say Captain Kirk tells Spock, don’t blow up the Enterprise. But Spock starts an unstoppable self-destruct mechanism with a 1 hour timer. A half hour latter Kirk tells Spock, “since you can no longer obey my command, I am forced to take it back.” Spock would say “but Captain, that would be illogical”.

Similarly, when mankind fell in Adam, God wasn’t forced to take His commands back. So God does not unjustly command the impossible, but He does not rescind His commands from mankind after the fall. This is the difference between Edwards’ position and my own. Edwards thinks God can issue a command to someone who can’t obey, I don’t, even though we agree that fallen mankind can’t obey God’s commands.

Part of a Critique of Jonathan Edwards’ Enquire into the Will at Arminian Chronicles.