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>Corporate versus individual election

>Brennon Hartshorn has posted his take on Romans 9 from an Arminian perspective. Marcus McElhaney, of a more Calvinist persuasion, has addressed Brennon’s post pointwise. Both are an interesting read and there is some common agreement; they may be worth perusing prior to reading this post. I do not seek to reproduce or comment on the whole exchange. Rather one paragraph of Marcus’ made me think that aspects of freewill needed clarification.

In Romans 9 Paul writes

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Brennon’s comment on verses 14 and 15 (italics above),

What about this? Was God unrighteous when He chose Jacob over Esau? The Jews at this time would have thought so. Esau was the eldest and that meant that the birthright of Isaac was naturally his. But God chose Jacob to be the one to carry on the line of Israel. Paul asserts that of course God is not unrighteous in this decision.

In verse 15 Paul is citing Exodus 33:19. Let’s remember that Paul is a Jewish Rabbi. Jews memorized large portions of the Old Testament. He had an amazing command of knowledge of these ancient texts. Would he rip the text out of context in order to prove a point about individual unconditional election? No! The context here is not about who goes to heaven and who does not. In context, Moses has asked God to show him His glory. God says it is because of His mercy that He has decided to show Himself to Moses, not due to anything Moses did. So Paul’s point is God does not owe us mercy based on what we do (will or run). The basis of God’s choice to save people is not on the people’s conduct, but on His compassion. The “IT” in verse 16 is not individual salvation; the “IT” refers to God’s choice of what to predicate His salvation on: Corporate election. Individual unconditional election has not appeared in this section. (Emphasis original.)

Marcus responds thus,

I’m not sure why we would assume that if God could do this with nations that he does not do it with individuals? In order for God to do it on a corporate scale means turning and directing the will of many people…so teaching that God does not do anything against human free will goes out the window. I agree that the verses are definitely saying that election is based on God’s will and desire and nothing to do with the properties of those being elected. I mean you can’t elect yourself to something and still call it “election”. “Fair” is whatever God says it is as far as I am concerned. I think that Paul is really pointing out that this is how God is and deals with his creation. It’s His reality. We just live in it…on His terms.

While I disagree with aspects of this paragraph, I also think Marcus misunderstands aspects of freewill.

The context of Romans 9 seems to be corporate. Paul starts by mentioning fellow (ethnic) Israelites. He then goes on to discuss individuals such as Isaac, Jacob, Esau and Pharaoh. The need of the exegete is therefore to explain why the change to individual salvation or, as Brennon attempts to do, how the individuals mentioned represent the corporate or represent God’s dealings with the corporate.

The importance of assessing individual versus corporate is that dealing with the corporate is fundamentally distinct from dealing with the individual. The issue with God dealing with the individual is that if God does so in an exhaustively deterministic way then man is essentially an automaton. He is therefore unable to to truly love, nor is he responsible for his actions—good or bad.

This does not mean that proponents of freewill deny that God is able to act deterministically, he is; it is that he does not do so exhaustively because he wants creatures to love him. God could set up a clockwork world and appreciate its beauty and precision. But God created this world with men who would love and enjoy him forever.

Freewill does not constrain God, he constrains himself. God could still prevent men from thinking or conceiving some things, and he may in fact do this at times. God is able to prevent the actions of evil men and does so. Freedom is not a power that God struggles to overcome, it is a gift, an attribute of God that he bestows on man.

Now this does not apply to corporate groups because a group does not have freewill, other than the freedom of the individuals within it. And God can act in ways that affect corporate outcome without overriding the freedom of individuals that comprise it. God can raise up a nation by providing optimal environmental conditions, and he can destroy a nation by sending disaster.

In doing so we note that God’s plans for groups can be brought about according to God’s purpose and for his glory. God tells Israel they are not a nation of note but that he will make them great. Individuals within various groups still retain the choice to side with or against God. If God punishes a nation, individuals of such nations can still appeal to God’s mercy. We see this in Rahab and the Egyptians who left in the Exodus. If God blesses a nation, individuals can still reject God’s purposes; consider Korah, Dathan and Abiram.

While a Calvinist may see God working on the corporate scale as an outworking of exhaustive determinism of individuals, this perspective is a result of the Calvinist system. God is actually able to act on the corporate scale without exhaustive determinism. The non-Calvinist perspective is that God works at the corporate level to assess the actions of individuals. God does not control the motives of our hearts, he tests them.

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Categories: determinism, freewill
  1. 2009 November 21 at 21:26

    Thanks for going over this and adding your input.
    I added a sentence to my exegesis that I think is important. I think in asking if God is unjust for choosing Jacob over Esau, i think he is also asking “At the same time, is He unrighteous for not choosing Jews on the basis of their heritage?” which is part of the point of this passage.

  2. 2009 November 21 at 21:53

    Thanks, bethyada, I’m glad you are pointing out the question is most relating to “free will”. I do not think that “free will” when applied to humanity because we are not able to act or act otherwise completely without God. For example, none of us has the ability to go to Jesus unless the Father draws us (John 6:44). Bottom line. We also know its impossible for an unregenerate person to please God or serve God (Hebrews 11). Given that…how can we come back and say that God does not exhaustively determine our lives. Acts 17:24-28 says He does determine much of everything (I’d argue all) that makes you you.
    I guess I just don’t see from scripture anywhere where we can stand on the idea that God works on the corporate level without touching the individual. It does not fit. I was wondering, bethtyada, if you could giver me some scripture where God says that he leaves men to decide for themselves.

  3. 2009 November 22 at 09:29

    Hi bossmanhan, I wasn’t exegesing Romans 9, or even verses 14 and 15. It was the response that drew my attention to an issue on freewill I thought needed clarification. I think Romans covers some difficult material, and can understand why Calvinists get what they do from chapter 9. I have to think about it more. Jc_freak (I think) linked to an interesting commentary on Romans 9 in 5 parts. It would be good to find it again. It may be on SEA?

  4. 2009 November 22 at 10:03

    Hi Marcus. What we mean by freewill is not complete absolute freedom to do absolutely anything, it means the ability to make choices that are ours. We are best to make them in line with God’s will and God may aid us in this, but we can make decisions, at least some of the time, against what God wills for us. That is we can choose to disobey God even while God wills us to obey him. And that choice is ours, it is not some second will of God’s. Essentially freewill says that exhaustive determinism is not true.
    This does not mean we act completely without God. For Christians much of what we do is with God’s help, he strengthens our spirit to do what we know is right, even while our flesh entices us otherwise. But we still have the choice to align our behaviour with what the Spirit is doing in us, or not.
    Next, the inability to do good does not mean we are determined by God. If we were determined by God then we will be doing good. Rather one is choosing various wrongs. Hebrews 11? Are you referring to verse 6? I don’t know how you are reading this. I don’t see pleasing God as exactly the same as doing good. And claims about no one doing good I read as doing everything good. Of course people do some good. And all good done by everyone is with God’s help. Unbelievers do some good things which we can trace to God’s workings in this world.
    Acts 17 does say that God does a lot. But freewill does not say God does nothing. God does heaps! But identifying many things God does is not proving we have no will and I am an automaton. Romans 1 shows we make choices.
    God does work on the corporate level and the individual level. But these are categorically distinct.
    God doesn’t leave man to himself. He works on men’s hearts but still lets them make the choice whether or not they wish to join his kingdom.
    You are pushing freewill to far. It seems that you see the 2 options as
    1. God controlling absolutely everything including our thoughts and actions (exhaustive determinism)
    2. God doing nothing and humans being able to make any decision and do anything.
    But a denial of 1 does not entail 2.
    .

  5. 2009 November 22 at 11:17

    Hey, bethyada. here is my latest response

  6. 2009 November 26 at 14:19

    I think the argument over the nature of the human will and the nature of God’s determination over who will be saved is a distraction.
    The bible has debates, vigorous ones, on certain issues. However two very contentious issues today (Creationism and Calvinism) are complete non-issues in scripture.
    It would be good for these two matters to be amicably settled (no pun intended) between Christians on that basis. Those who suggest God determines who goes where and that the earth might be billions of years old should let it go in favour of unity.

  7. 2009 November 27 at 02:50

    Hey, Grant, I agree in amicable settlement. Just agree with what the scripture says is true. My question is why should Old Earth Creationism and Calvinisim agree to give up? If the Bible supports them, then Christians should believe them. If they aren’t Biblical then they should be rejected not “let go in favour of unity”.

  8. 2009 November 27 at 13:40

    The bible clearly, unambiguously and consistently affirms the fact of its own creation account.
    Bible characters always interact with God with the belief that their choices might sway His response.
    Why should we be any different in our understanding and belief?

  9. 2009 November 27 at 23:02

    I agree that Genesis is correct. Unambiguously. But there is nothing saying that it should be interpreted that the earth is just 6000 years old. The Bible and science do not conflict and I do not know really how old the earth is. I think it is best to remain open-minded and just know God did it.
    As for people swaying God…I think that it’s a lot more complicated than that. We know God DOES NOT change His mind…emphatically…therefore its not simply that they got God to change his response since He knows before they even opened their mouth what would ultimately happen.

  10. 2009 November 28 at 04:25

    You speak very passionately, yet are easily betrayed by simply opening the bible.
    Of course the bible and science are not in conflict. I think you’ve been tricked into believing that popular ideas are established fact. That you don’t know the age of the earth is no evidence that it might be old. I think it’s best to read God’s word to see how He did it.
    On God changing His mind we know emphatically that He does not change His mind like a man does. Yet every interaction in the bible between Him and man shows a relationship. All the men in the bible related to God as if He were open to suggestions.
    So what might be wrong with assuming that we can believe the same thing? If God saw it well and good to allow Adam, Abraham and Moses to enter into dialogue why should we believe that He expects any different from us?
    Calvinists and Old Earthers should concede because, even if their analysis is right, it is not how God presents the truth. That and they are clearly not right.

  11. 2009 November 28 at 11:37

    Hey, Greant, Hebrew geneologies do not list every single person, but often omit less important people, therefore you can’t use the geneologies in Genesis to get the age of the earth. Further the Hebrew word “yom” translated “days” does not always mean 24 hours. These are the reasons why I think the old earth creationists may have a Biblical basis on which to stand just as tenable as the young earth I creationists. At least we can all agree that God and only God did created everything out of nothing!
    While God does allow interaction and dialogue, I don’t think that there is a single case where those discussions led to God to doing something he wasn’t already going to do anyway.
    We have several scriptures that tell us that God doesn’t need us to make decisions or our help. He counsels Himself with Himself. In Isaiah 1:18:

    “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

    It’s not a call to negotiation, but a challenge to see things God’s way because His ways do not change.
    Psalm 135:6 says:

    The LORD does whatever pleases him,
    in the heavens and on the earth,
    in the seas and all their depths.

    Proverbs 21:1 says

    The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

    Proverbs 19:21 says

    Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
    but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

    Psalm 33:10 says

    The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.

    Isaiah 46:10

    I make known the end from the beginning,from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.

    Ephesians 1:11

    In him we were also chosen,[a] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

    Hebrews 6:17 says

    Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.

    Just because God allows us to discuss what we want and to make suggestions, doesn’t mean that He is obligated to take our advice. He doesn’t need it.
    If Calvinists and Old earthers are correct then it is God’s truth. They can’t be right and God’s truth wrong. Gor’s truth is right and everyone else could be wrong.

  12. 2009 November 28 at 12:39

    Marcus,
    It seems you’ve made four points in that post. Let me shoot them down in the order they are presented.
    Against a young earth:
    1. Genealogies might have missing names:
    They well might. Do you think enough names might be missing that millions of years actually passed?
    I cannot use genealogies to arrive at an exact age for the earth. That is not evidence that the earth is old.
    2. “Yom” might not mean a 24 hour period:
    True. And “Day” doesn’t necessarily mean a 24 hour period. However it also can mean a 24 hour period.
    If these two reasons are the best you can give to support the validity of an old earth hypothesis then I remain entirely justified in rejecting your hypothesis in favour of a simple reading of God’s word.
    That you don’t seem prepared to defend an old earth sort of leaves you conceding this.
    For Calvinism:
    3. You think God never does something he wasn’t already going to do:
    And I think He is perfectly capable of adjusting His response according to the hearts of men.
    4. God doesn’t need us to make decisions or our help:
    What He doesn’t need and what He doesn’t want are two different things.
    For every verse you pull out that says God is in control of things people do I can pull out a verse that says God responds to the hearts of men. How are you going to reconcile this?
    I reconcile it by saying God is all powerful, but chooses relationship with us over controlling everything that happens.

  13. 2009 November 28 at 13:01

    God: Adam, name these animals.
    Adam: OK.
    God communicated with Adam in a manner that sought advice and input. Why would it be wrong for anyone else to believe the same?
    Cain: Don’t send me out unprotected. My other brothers will kill me.
    God: OK, here’s some protection.
    Cain expected to be heard and responded to by God. Why should we not believe the same?
    Abraham: God, don’t destroy that city!
    Abraham talked to God with humility and respect, but still sought to sway Him toward mercy. Why should we not believe that God can be asked to change in a similar way?
    Calvinists want us to believe that God has predetermined or knows everything that will ever happen. However story after story through the bible shows people in a normal relationship with God where both parties have input into the outcome.
    Even if the Calvinist is correct and these stories are not meant to be read the way they are, by what means would we be able to know our relationship with God is entirely one-sided when God presents Himself otherwise?
    Much simpler to believe the bible as it is written.

  14. 2009 November 29 at 02:42

    We know God DOES NOT change His mind…emphatically
    Do we?
    We know that God does not change his character, but the Bible suggests he changes his actions based on man’s appeal. Now we may argue that God knew man was going to appeal, but that does not mean that God was only always do what actually happened. Had not Moses and Abraham stood in the gap then God would have acted otherwise.
    Your passages may be consistent with a Calvinist interpretation, but they are not proof of it. One needs to take the whole counsel of Scripture. How do Arminian and Calvinist theologies deal with difficult Scriptures?
    I think that you are arguing against a caricature of Arminianism. Before defending Calvinism I think it would be useful for you to get a good grasp of what Arminianism claims. You will be able to better grasp the distinctions. I do not say this as an authority on Calvinism, perhaps some of my ideas on Calvinism are incorrect. But I know what I believe (and it seems to match Arminianism) and your statements suggest that you are arguing against something other than what I believe. I don’t get the feeling you understand my (and many Arminians) position.
    For example you say Just because God allows us to discuss what we want and to make suggestions, doesn’t mean that He is obligated to take our advice. He doesn’t need it.
    This implies that you think our position means that we think God is obligated. But we don’t think this. So you are (in this instance anyway) arguing against a strawman. It just so happens that both Calvinists and Arminians deny an obligation (of this sort anyway). The similarities and differences need to be more clearly delineated and then evidence shown that favours one over the other.
    Kind regards
    bethyada

  15. 2009 November 30 at 02:50

    Thanks for the kind discussion, brothers.
    @Grant
    I wasn’t really trying to argue for Old Earth or Young Earth, just to show that there is good evidence for and against both. I personally don’t know. All I know is that God did it.
    The hearts of men are wicked and God neither does evil nor is tempted by evil, therefore I don’t think we can say that God responds to us. No. We respond to him. I don’t think God wants our input.
    Did God ask Abraham, “Should I destroy Sodam and Gomorrah?” Did God ask Cain, “Is this punishment okay with you?” No. Adam was allowed to name the animals, do we really think that God did not know what Adam was going to name them? Of course he knew.
    When I look at the totality of scripture it does seem like there are times that God allows us to act on our own like in the situations of Adam, Moses, and Abraham and other times he dictates it and allows us to know that He is acting against our will. For example:
    God: Go Preach Ninevah!
    Jonah: I don’t wanna
    God: Yes you are
    Our relationship with God is not one-sided. He acts and we respond. He is in control. Nothing we do come as a surprise to him. The relationship is not equal. He is superior. We have examples where it appears that people had input into the outcome and example where people did not. Ask Job, Jonah, Hosea, Jeremiah, and Job how much input they had.
    @bethyada
    We do not know what God would have done had Moses or Abraham had spoken up because they did. What we do know that God says he predetermined everything. He knows the end from the beginning.
    I know that not all Arminians believe and teach the same thing. I’m gad that you join with me in saying that God is not obligated to save us or to do anything. However some of our Arminian brothers and sisters think that God is. (see Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free as an example of people teaching that God is obligated to equally try to save everyone because He is all-loving.
    Love you guys. Thank you!

  16. Anne
    2009 November 30 at 06:34

    You guys just leave me scratching my head. Why argue (coz you are, really…) what Paul or God thought or meant, and why, …as per written in some translation or other, in scripture?
    How can anyone really know what was in another person’s mind at any period in history, or really know what their “words” mean? How do we know that we are “interpretting” the meaning of words written in a way that was never intended? Would a medieval scholar have a handle on this munted sentence?
    Isn’t the key to understanding God’s character and his actions how we grow, in obedience, in the closeness of a personal, daily walk with Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit?
    Luke 9: 62 seems particularly applicable in today’s ever strident word, as do James 1:5… John 16:13. but especially 1 John 2: 27.
    How does such discourse help up in terms of John 8: 31-32?
    This line of thought above, puzzles me:
    “If the Bible supports them, then Christians should believe them. If they aren’t Biblical then they should be rejected not “let go in favour of unity”.”
    Huh? How relevant to walking with God today is a deep historical argument about who was right or wrong in history?
    My take is simple (and perhaps stupid). God had a plan with corporate Israel, which was essentially His Story, for his own reasons, and His ways aren’t our ways, or thoughts, so any conjecture might be massively wrong. God also had a plan for each individual Israelite, which they could accept or reject.
    God still has a plan for Israel, and individuals of Israel.
    But the original “corporate” contract changed and expanded when God ripped the curtains in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom, which entitles anyone, from any nation, to come to God, one to one, and have a unique, individual relationship with him, without reference to man, structure or a system. One to one. With the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth.
    And that’s all that matters to me, today. That I have as close a personal walk with Jesus as possible, because that’s what counts when things are rough.

  17. Anne
    2009 November 30 at 06:36

    This scripture up the top is so spot on:
    But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be… always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3
    Perhaps “Less learning” and more listening is the key.

  18. 2009 November 30 at 07:01

    @Marcus. It is a self-defeating analysis to say there is good evidence for both sides. Especially when you claim to not know either way.
    @Anne. We can tell what people were thinking and what they meant from what they wrote. It’s actually pretty easy to do. Once you learn to read. :)

  19. Anne
    2009 November 30 at 19:50

    @ Grant,
    I’m sure that Jesus would really approve of your snide judgement of me.
    Or didn’t you read about “judge not, lest…?
    Not only do I know how to read, I’ve written two books. But I’d never presume the way you do.
    You cannot tell what people were thinking at all. You just assume you can.
    And that is pure ego.

  20. 2009 December 1 at 07:02

    @Anne
    I agree with a personal relationship with God is important the problem with what you have said is that truth is truth. God’s word is important. We need to know what Paul really meant when he wrote what he did when he did because God inspired him to put His word on paper! This is important! We are learning as we go. I love discussions like these so we can learn and hash these things out…the Holy Spirit is at work when we talk of such things and revealing much.
    @Grant
    My points concerning creationism has nothing to do with proving or disproving which viewpoint is correct because I don’t know. I see good evidence for both sides and I am unwilling to throw either one “under the bus”.

  21. 2009 December 1 at 07:05

    @Anne
    Oh one more thing, I don’t think that Grant was trying to insult you. There are a lot of Christians who see no value in debate or in discussing the finer points of theology. I think it’s all important every word and I truly want to to understand it – however not everyone is called to it. Doesn’t make anyone more or less spiritual if you like to exegete scripture, but the Bible does command us to study and search it out…it’s about worshipping God with your mind

  22. 2009 December 1 at 13:45

    @Anne. I have read what Jesus said about judging. He said to not judge like a hypocrite, but to judge with righteous judgement (Matt 7:5, Jn 7:24).
    Congratulations on having written two books. Are you planning on writing more?
    Note: Where I come from my comments to you are considered fairly tame. I did not expect you to feel overly insulted.
    @Marcus. I will throw old earth beliefs under the bus. And I will do so with strong evidence from both scripture and science.
    Given your stance I would not expect to hear anything more on the matter from you, but I do not believe a man can remain ambivalent on the issue for very long.So if you want to engage in the discussion I’d be happy to hear more from you on why you think old earthers have a case. :)

  23. 2009 December 2 at 19:30

    @Grant
    Thanks for the offer. I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss creationism further. Have you written much on it?
    I don’t have much evidence for old earth creationism beyond what I have commented here. It’s for those reasons that I don’t think scripture gives us enough information to figure out the age of the earth – like it doesn’t give us enough information to figure out how airplanes fly.
    Therefore, I would love to see your scriptural and scientific evidences for rejecting old earth and accepting young earth. My own study has yielded more questions than answers so any information you offer, considering that this is important, I would thank God for your help.
    As for free will, what do you think of Job and Jonah? Did they have a synergistic relationship with God or did God use them to show his sovereignty as he did Pharaoh during the Exodus?

  24. 2009 December 3 at 02:29

    Job and Pharaoh? Both. There is no need to throw away man’s will to accommodate God’s sovereignty.
    If you have no scriptural support for an old earth I do not see any way to deny that it promotes a recent creation. The genealogies may not be complete, but are you going to assume that there are millions of missing names in order to justify an old age?

  25. 2009 December 3 at 18:07

    @grant…oh I’m not throwing away “man’s will”. I fully agree with scripture that everyone has a will and we are accountable for that will. However, Job’s circumstances had nothing to do with what he did or what he didn’t do. Jonah actually tried to circumvent God and God showed him who was boss. And God said that the he was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart before Pharaoh even heard the message. Can you name a single case in scripture where a person is credited with an act or a thought that they did not get from God?
    I’m going to say that we don’t know how many people were skipped in genealogies in Genesis. I mean it could have been millions for all we know. The point of the genealogies is not to show who all lived and died – just the important ones God wanted us to know about. I would like to see your scriptures for why you reject “Old earth” interpretation. I want to affirm that I’m not denying either view point because I don’t think the Bible gives us enough information to be dogmatic about either one. What is your scientific evidence?

  26. 2009 December 4 at 07:31

    Job, Pharaoh and Jonah are all examples of people credited with an act or a thought that they did not get from God. The decision to disobey God was not from God in the latter two cases and Job’s decision to fear God was not God’s choice.
    To claim otherwise does exactly what you said you did not want to do. It throws away man’s ability to choose.
    This debate is not about whether God is in control. It is about whether He controls every single detail.
    If you’re going to leave the genealogies open to millions of missing data points can we at least agree that the creation week took six days and that men did not evolve from fish?
    Physical evidence for a young earth? If the earth were more than a few million years old the moon would be inside it.

  27. 2009 December 4 at 18:26

    @Grant
    The point I ws making about Job was that he did nothing to cause the disasters he experienced. He did nothing to warrant or avoid them. God allowed it by his own sovereign choice.
    The Scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart before Pharoah hardened his own heart. God could have softened it but chose not to. Romans 9 tells us that God raised him up so God could knock him down. Again it was God’s choice.
    Jonah actively chose to disobey God, but God made him obey anyway – without making Jonah think that Jonah changed his mind when he didn’t,
    I think you misunderstand, I’m not arguing that God controls every single detail to the exclusion of human will. I’m arguing that God does whatever it takes to make his purposes be fulfilled even if that means making people think and feel differently than they would on their own. Considering that no one can come to Jesus unless they are enabled by God – changing their hearts so that they agree with the Gospel – God changes people’s will all the time to line up with His own. He changed mine. He changed yours. For which I know we are grateful.
    I’m not an evolutionist. I believe that the Bible says it took 6 days to make the earth and that we did not evolve from other forms of life. However the hebrew leaves open if it was 6 24 hour days or not. I’m ambivalent because God can do anything! A period of time (“yom”) could be 24 hours…1 second…a billion years. Anything is possible. Besides do we think that in 1 24 hour time period, God made Adam, Adam named all the animals in creation, and God made Eve! That’s a lot…not impossible…and I have no problem in believing it possible. We can’t even be sure that each Yom was the same period of time. Maybe day 1 was 24 hours and Day 2 68 hours? We can’t be sure.
    CAn you be more detailed as to why the moon would have to be in the earth if the earth was a few million years old?

  28. 2009 December 6 at 18:54

    @Marcus.
    God did allow what happened to Job by his own sovereign choice. Here is the account:
    Job 1
    8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
    9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
    10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
    11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
    12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”
    So, you’re right. God did what is written that He did.
    The Scriptures do say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart before Pharoah hardened his own heart. Here is that account:
    Exodus 4
    21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.
    22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn.
    23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.”
    You then assert that God could have softened Pharaoh’s heart but chose not to. I can tell you exactly the means by which God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Can you tell me the exact means by which God might have softened it?
    Romans 9 does tell us that God raised him up so God could knock him down. It was God’s choice to do God’s actions. Whose choice was it to respond to those actions in the manner Pharaoh did?
    I don’t understand what you’re trying to say about Jonah. Would you mind explaining it a bit more clearly?
    If you’re not arguing that God controls every single detail to the exclusion of human will then you’re not arguing. I agree that God does whatever it takes to make his purposes be fulfilled, but He has no need to control how people think and feel other than by interacting with them as people. He doesn’t perform magic on people to make them respond a certain way.
    God cannot change a man’s will for then it would cease to be that man’s will. He can subject man to any situation He likes. The choice to curse God or to fear him remains with the man. As it always must for a relationship to be possible.
    I’m happy to hear you’re not an evolutionist. :)
    The moon currently recedes from the earth at a rate of ~3cm/year. If we ran the clock backward for a few million years then we’d have an uninhabitable planet (you can ignore my “moon inside the earth” line. I was being a little bit silly :)

  29. Jason
    2009 December 9 at 06:25

    Roche’s limit would tear the moon apart before it got that close I suspect.

  30. 2009 December 10 at 14:55

    Uh .. yeah .. it’s moving away .. not toward. :)

  31. Jason
    2009 December 11 at 07:11

    True true, but if it were pulling away from the Earth it would still experience the same effect. =)

  32. 2009 December 11 at 23:54

    @Grant
    So Regarding Job…we agree
    In regards to pharaoh, God could have softened Pharoah’s heart the same way He softened your heart and mine. God said that he takes out he heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. How else can you explain how we go from not thinking about God to loving him? We love Him because He first loved us. Ezekiel 11:19 says:
    I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
    As for Jonah, I am saying that Jonah decided of his own free will to go against God’s command. Did God just find someone else to do what He wanted? No, He made Jonah do it. In this instance, Jonah retained his will and knew that God was forcing Him to change his mind through the circumstances God put him in. Sometimes God doesn’t do that. Sometimes God works through a person and the person does not know that it’s God but thinks they are doing only what they wanted to do.
    @Grant and @Jason
    So…if the Moon is incrementally moving away from the earth and Roche’s limit precludes the idea of the moon moving too far towards or away from the earth, then i don’t think we have to worry about the moon’s stable orbit changing if the earth were millions of years old. At the same time the moon is pulling away, it’s falling towards the earth. Think of how a way to describe “orbit” is “falling toward that which you orbit”. This wasn’t the best scientific example for rejecting old earth creationism, Grant. Do you have any other points you would like to share?

  33. 2009 December 12 at 02:37

    Marcus, you are mixing up 2 issues. That of God’s actions on us, and God determining our thoughts. Jonah still had the choice to disobey God. He repented inside the whale. Yes God modifies our environment, and yes God woos us, but that is distinct from God determining our will.
    God can theoretically change our thoughts, but to do so consistently for every thought (determinism) logically precludes us from loving him.

  34. 2009 December 12 at 02:39

    I don’t quite get how determinism is related to the age of the earth and the Roche limit. But increased clarity is required so I may post on this at a latter stage.

  35. 2009 December 16 at 21:53

    @bethyada I don’t think I’m mixing them up at all. I agree that there are separate. I’d call God interrupting Jonah’s trip and had the fish take him in the direction God told him to go in the first place. God did not change Jonah’s thoughts but I’ve got to bring up what about Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar both of which Bible said that God was directing their actions although they thought they were just doing what they thought they wanted to do. I also remember Nebuchadnezzar’s mind was basically wiped for those years. And then God gave him just enough back so he could acknowledge God’s power and sovereignty

    28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
    31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
    33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
    34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
    His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
    35 All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
    He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
    No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”
    36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

    Daniel 4:28-37

  36. 2009 December 17 at 09:37

    Marcus, you may have them distinct in your mind. I just think it is important for them to be clearly delineated in discussion as it is where determinists and non-determinists disagree. That God effects change in this world to challenge us is not in dispute. It is in the area of controlling our thoughts that the Calvinists and Arminians disagree.
    And it is not that God is unable to control thoughts to an extent, or limit us from having certain thoughts, this indeed seems possible; rather it is exhaustive determination of our actions (by way of controlling our thoughts and desires) that is where the disagreement lies.

  37. 2009 December 17 at 17:52

    @bethyada I think it’s danger in both extremes of assuming determinism and non-determinism. And i don’t think that non-hyper Calvinists (read “sane”) would agree that God controls all our thoughts all the time. Yet I think the Bible does not support the Arminian asserting that we are able to choose God on our own ability. Again, I realize that many do recognize that we are unable to seek God on our own. It is just that if God is going to go part of the way to allow you to make a choice, why would he? I mean it is the most important choice in a person’s life – why would God leave it solely up to us?

  38. 2009 December 18 at 13:19

    Whoa, I wish I noticed this conversation earlier. There are some interesting arguments going on here. I’ll start with saying that I am a classical Arminian, and my thoughts come from that perspective.
    Marcus said:
    “The Scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart before Pharoah hardened his own heart. God could have softened it but chose not to. Romans 9 tells us that God raised him up so God could knock him down. Again it was God’s choice.”
    @Marcus
    This is incorrect. First of all, the Scripture says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first, not that God did. God predicted He was going to, but that’t not the same thing as the Bible saying that God hardened it before Pharaoh did a thing. If you look at the actual listing of the plagues it talks about Pharaoh hardening his own heart before it talks about God hardening it.
    The other aspect is what I assume is a quote from Romans 9. I say this is an assumption because Romans 9 is, itself, quoting the Old Testament, namely Exodus 9. In context “raising Pharaoh up” refers to God sparing Pharaoh, meaning that God has spared Pharaoh up until that point so that He might display His glory when He finally does dispatch him. This solidifies Paul’s whole point in Romans 9 that God will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy, as part of an overall argument that God is not required to bring salvation to the Jews by way of heritage. For more on Romans 9, you can look here, especially at the links to Keith Schooley’s articles on SEA.
    Marcus said:
    “I think you misunderstand, I’m not arguing that God controls every single detail to the exclusion of human will. I’m arguing that God does whatever it takes to make his purposes be fulfilled even if that means making people think and feel differently than they would on their own. Considering that no one can come to Jesus unless they are enabled by God – changing their hearts so that they agree with the Gospel – God changes people’s will all the time to line up with His own. He changed mine. He changed yours. For which I know we are grateful.”
    I don’t entirally disagree with everything you say here. For instance, yes, God does whatever it takes to make sure His purposes come to pass, even changing a person’s mind. What I reject is that this method is normative. Rather it should be considered exceptional. This is consistent with Scripture which has countless examples of God being frustrated with His people’s decisions.
    I also agree with the concept that no one comes to Jesus unless they are enabled. After all, I am an Arminian, and all Arminians believe that. The only thing I would reject is that this enablement is causing someone to believe in the gospel. No, it is enabling all person’s to believe in the gospel, because otherwise, God’s call to salvation isn’t universal, and that is unbiblical. It is very clear that God desires all to be saved

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