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>Freedom of man

>Reading Calvinists I am not certain they always understand the opposing view. There are several things that need to be understood by Calvinists if they are to adequately interact with those who do not subscribe to the reformed view.

I myself have not read Calvin or a great deal of defence of Calvinism. I have however read a lot of material written by Calvinists, some of which covers questions of salvation and predestination. And my current Bible is a Reformation Study Bible.

An aside: I am somewhat concerned that “reformed” is synonymous with “Calvinism.” Protestants in general trace theological ancestry back to the Reformation and many of them do not hold to a “reformed” view; but the term is well established. I actually object to Open View being called consistent Arminianism because it steals a term which already has meaning, and makes a judgment about deniers of Open View theology—that of inconsistency. Always be wary of those who frame debates in terms of manipulating language and the meanings of words!

Further, I have not studied up on Arminian theology, I just disagree with Calvinism so I think my ideas likely have an Arminian flavour.

Problems I have with Calvinist theology

  • I cannot see how God can cause something to happen directly and not be the source of it. Therefore I think that Calvinism makes God the author of sin. This is so contrary to what the Bible seems to teach that I cannot bide by it.
  • God repeatedly calls us to repent. The Bible is full of examples of God calling men to obey him and punishing men for disobedience. That God causes the disobedience that he so frequently rebukes men for just seems preposterous.
  • Other than a few verses (eg. Romans 9) the Bible does not seem to read in a Calvinist way.
  • Verses that seem to contradict Calvinism are given interpretations by Calvinists that seem to me to be unusual or bizarre.
  • A genetic fallacy I know—but it seems, from the little I know, that Calvin was influenced by Augustine who wrongly married aspects of Greek philosophy to Christianity.

How I see some Calvinists misunderstand non-Calvinists

We do not necessarily take the polar opposite to Calvinists.

Men are created in the image of God. They are also fallen. So they have many aspects in common with God but these aspects are frequently broken. They are broken beyond repair in that they can only be fixed by Christ, but they are not broken beyond recognition, nor use.

Take reason. Our ability to reason is because of God’s image in us, but we make mistakes in our reason.

  • We may not follow logic completely
  • We accept false premises
  • We prefer to think reality conforms to our sinful nature
  • We will defend our sin rather than face it.

But also

  • We can follow some logical arguments
  • We accept some true premises (to a varying degree) even if we do not know Christ
  • Some men do realise that things are not all right with man
  • And, even if we are unwilling to see evil in ourselves, most see it to some degree in others.

Now it may well be God’s sustaining power and work in our lives that allows us to do things while broken, but those thoughts remain ours, at least at the level of whether we choose to agree with God or disagree with him. That is, God is not forcing certain men to reject him, rather he is calling all, and all can respond, though not all choose to.

While God gives us much freedom, this does not mean we deny that God can override that freedom, at least in action; though he may prevent a thought or prevent a thought developing. Nor is deism true— God did not set up the world leaving us to do what we may, God is very actively involved in his creation. He responds to our prayers, he guides us, he gives us ideas, he speaks in dreams, visions and audibly at times. God is probably far more active in this world than most people appreciate.

But the key idea is that we have freedom of choice. While God has preferences for us we can choose to accept them or choose to rebel against them. We can oppose God. While God’s ultimate will (final plan or thing that he has determined to happen) cannot be thwarted, we can surely rage against him.

God is able to bring good out of evil, even greater good than would have been had the evil not occurred, but that he does that is testimony to his goodness; to claim that God willed evil to bring about a greater good seems, to me, to be inconsistent with the nature of God.

Categories: freewill, philosophy
  1. BA
    2007 December 5 at 09:17

    I agree with the view that God has given us free will.
    Despite that, it is pretty amazing how early in history (as told in The Bible) it is evident that God had an extensive plan for salvation through Jesus, which had to go through all the foretold points that were prophesied etc… Did all that happen with people making totally free choices and yet God foretold what would happen?
    I think of Judas and stuff like that, hard to reconcile in my little mind…

  2. Starwind
    2007 December 5 at 21:05

    It’s been a while since I’ve fought in the Cal-Minian wars, but as I recollect….
    The Calvinist view tends to over-emphasize God’s sovereignty and minimize free-will to the point that I’ve seen “belief” argued as a “work” and “faith” argued as the “gift”.
    The Arminian view tends to over-emphasize God’s foreknowledge and minimize His choice in election, that the reason someone is “chosen” is because of what God’s foreknowledge reveals of an individual’s choice, as if God had no other participation in “Election” beyond responding to the believer’s decision.
    The most balanced view I’ve ever read was Norman Geisler’s “Chosen but Free”. Geisler is a self-declared Calvinist, but most Calvinists I personally know disavow him as not actually “Calvinist”, but then every Calvinist I know comes across as more of a hyper-Calvinist…. so go figure.
    The ‘tension’ seldom adequately explored is that God says He chose us first, knowing we would believe, but the questions is why do some of believe when many don’t? There seems no common thread of intellect, upbringing, neither nature nor nuture. Some of us seem “predisposed” to being teachable believers, while many seem predisposed to stubborn denial. Even among those who ardently disbelieve, what is different in those who later become ardent believers?
    God in His sovereign election seems to play more of a role than just “respondent” to a profession of faith, He seems to lay the groundwork for that profession, but why? On what basis? That is the issue the Arminian ignores. The Calvinist errs on the other extreme, dening that the believer was at free to believe, but only free to disbelieve (total depravity).

  3. 2007 December 6 at 07:09

    Starwind, I hope to write more on this later. I am not fully read on Arminianism. I think God wants all to be saved and that the father draws men to himself. He is always working to turn the hearts of men until they have totally closed to him (I think this may happen before death but working on this). So there is always God at work, but we have the ability to reject God.
    So God does respond to us but also woos us. It is the ability for us to say yes to God which is the issue.
    I have some sympathy with total depravity. Sin totally alienates us from the King. We can’t right this with our power. And God calls us in our depravity so even in this we are responding to God. But I think we are able to respond to God’s call, whereas I think the Calvinist is more likely to say that even that response to God’s call is actually God responding to himself in us; I claim we can hold onto the rope thrown to us, or at least choose that option if we can’t intrinsically hold it.

  4. 2007 December 6 at 07:11

    BA, I hope to get to that. I think that God works a lot in history to ensure his ultimate will is done. Our will can oppose God but God will use our wrong desires for his purposes.
    But I claim that even with these choices we make (for or against God) which are free, not forced, that God knows everything that will happen ahead of time.

  5. Starwind
    2007 December 6 at 15:38

    Yes, I agree God desires that all be saved, that none should perish and that He woos us, and we have the ability to respond to the wooing (our depravity is not so total as to preclude our choosing to hear).
    Further, God even increments the “wooing” to get our attention and is longsuffering, no one will have an excuse for not knowing. In this I have some sympathy for the Calvinist view of God’s micro-managed providence to ensure that the “wooing” happens.
    But the subtle question remains, why do some respond to the wooing and others don’t? Why is the wooing sufficient to inspire seeking in some of us, but not others?
    We can’t boast in being more smart, sensitive, receptive, or worthy in any degree. So what is different in the believer vs unbeliever that one can be wooed and another not? If we ascribe the difference to upbringing, nuture, or life experiences we seem to say the wooing was not sufficient to overcome the desensitization or conscience searing aspects of life. If we ascribe the difference to predispositions in our personalities (our souls or spirits) from whence arose those differences? Is God the author of our souls? Why do we have different personalities, when were they formed, were our souls immortal and pre-existing prior to conception, and to what extent did God choose anything about our souls and their subsequent incarnation into a specific human mortal existence?
    I’m not arguing, just pondering, out loud.

  6. BA
    2007 December 7 at 08:48

    I’ve just been reading 2 books by Don Richardson; Peace Child and Lords of the earth. Both books are about western missionaries going into the jungles of Indonesia (Irian Jaya) ‘discovering’ and evangelising tribes that had not been engaged with the rest of the world before. These tribes were deeply religious and had many idolatrous practices including animal and human sacrifice. At the time that the missionaries encountered them they had no clue about Jesus and certainly did not have any relationship with our Father the creator. How many years, decades, generations, centuries… milleniums, did these tribes have no contact with anyone to tell them about God? And yet they had a kind of (warped) concept of sacred and sin… What do we say about their free choice? Heaven declares the glory of God was the only preaching they had, whereas many others have had free access to the Bible, churches, Christians et…
    I am not a big one to believe in chosen and not chosen, however it does seem that some have less choice.

  7. 2007 December 9 at 02:22

    BA I am not a big one to believe in chosen and not chosen, however it does seem that some have less choice.
    I would say “opportunity” rather than “choice” in this context. But I think it possible for the Irian Jayans pre-gospel, just less likely given our sinful nature, which is why we must preach! See my article Who gets saved? for some thoughts.
    Good book Peace Child, haven’t read the other, be interested in borrowing it sometime.

  8. 2007 December 11 at 03:43

    I actually object to Open View being called consistent Arminianism because it steals a term which already has meaning, and makes a judgment about deniers of Open View theology
    But if it is a true judgment, then you should have no objection. And it can be shown that it is indeed a true judgment. Of course, open theism itself is not internally consistent, just as any unbelieving worldview is not—but at least its theology proper and its anthropology are not obviously self-contradictory.
    That is, God is not forcing certain men to reject him, rather he is calling all, and all can respond, though not all choose to.
    Your use of language in saying that God does not force us implies men having a will of their own bent in one direction, while God coerces their actions in another direction entirely. But of course, that is a caricature of the Reformed position, which says that man has a will which is like a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, who turns it wherever he desires (Pr 21:1); and that man’s actions stem from his will. God does not force anything, as if anything could resist him. In order to be forced, the relationship between ourselves and God would have to be other than entirely passive. But the Reformed position denies this.
    to claim that God willed evil to bring about a greater good seems, to me, to be inconsistent with the nature of God.
    On the contrary, it is completely consistent with his nature. If all creation is for his glory, then how could he manifest his mercy, love, wrath, faithfulness, jealousness, long-suffering, and everything else which we see so superlatively in him, without sin?
    Regards,
    Bnonn

  9. 2007 December 12 at 02:21

    I do not object to Open viewers defending their position as internally consistent, I object because they are implying that Arminianism (without open view) is inconsistent. Arminianism may well be inconsistent but that needs to be proven, it doesn’t help things to define your beliefs into being. A label can be purely descriptive. Omniderigent is descriptive, openview is descriptive.
    It reminds me of the egalitarian/ complementarian debate with the egalitarians claiming that the word “complementarian” (after being defined by the opponents) describes their position (which it doesn’t) and then describe themselves as true complementarians.
    Redefining words in arguments, limiting language so as to limit thought (we find it more difficult to conceive things that we don’t have words for), making words have extremely broad meanings then equivocating on those meanings—all this reeks of trying to win an argument, not of trying to establish truth; I find it diabolical.

  10. 2007 December 12 at 02:28

    Bnonn In order to be forced, the relationship between ourselves and God would have to be other than entirely passive.
    Which I think it is, I claim it is active, that we can resist God.
    But if you prefer,
    * God is not causing certain men to reject him.
    We will have to disagree about God willing evil currently, I deny that we need sin and its consequence for God’s glory to appreciated. I agree that it may be more pronounced to us in a sinful world, but it can be seen in a sinless one.

  11. 2007 December 12 at 03:17

    Bethyada—
    How can we be active in comparison to God? How can we have the same metaphysical “power” as God, if you will? If it is really “in him” that we live and move and have our being, then is it not the case that he must always be active in relationship to us?
    Regarding glory, how could God exercise his mercy, justice, wrath, faithfulness and so on without sin? How could he actually exercise any of these qualities at all, let alone just in a “less pronounced” way?
    Regards,

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