A Response to Miller’s “Amyraldian Antinomy” (by Eric Hankins)

by Guest Blogger on May 12, 2014 · 81 comments

Before I begin, let me express my gratitude to Dave Miller for his willingness to let me post here at Voices. He has been generous with space while allowing me to offer perspectives at variance with his own. This is the true spirit of constructive debate. This post is my response to his response to my response to Nathan Finn’s response to the “Traditional Statement” (TS) on Southern Baptist (SB) soteriology, which is our response to New Calvinism in the SBC, which is the Calvinist response to non-Calvinism in the SBC. I imagine that this sort of back-and-forth is off-putting to some who see it as a distraction from the greater tasks of missions and evangelism. I certainly acknowledge the importance of keeping this conversation in a kingdom context. I believe, however, that this dialogue, if the basic rules of Christian discourse are followed, is essential to fruitful theological construction. My own understanding of the relevant concepts has grown immensely through this type of interchange. I am responding here to Miller’s reply because it is illustrative of the fundamental issues and dynamics of the debate. He makes two concessions with which I absolutely agree, although I am certain that we would disagree about their implications.

First, Miller concedes the point that Calvinism is predicated on determinism. He doesn’t like that word and makes mention that Calvinists would prefer something different. But he doesn’t propose an alternative because there isn’t one (Calvinists often offer the term “compatibilism,” but it is actually a subcategory of determinism*). That is really, really, really my main point. All SBs need to be crystal clear on this issue. If you’re going to be a Calvinist, you, like Miller, like Finn, like Piper, you, too, must be a determinist. If you’re going to affirm determinism then you must affirm its necessary implications, the main one being that God could have just as easily determined that all people “freely” choose Him instead of only some. This deep reality of determinism is seriously problematic.

Second, Miller concedes that the only way to slip out of the problematic implications of the determinism of 5-point Calvinism is to opt for a position that is logically contradictory. It is his belief that this offers a “middle ground” where most SBs, like him, want to stand, a middle ground that he feels I am denigrating. First (and I’ll touch on this later), I believe most SBs are not determinists. Therefore, most SBs are not like Miller. Indeed, Miller simply assumes a “Calvinist continuum,” presumably one to five points, to which all comers are bound. For some time, I’ve been arguing that SBs should stop operating with reference to that continuum because our rejection of determinism demands it. Second, Miller’s “middle ground” between “5-point Calvinism and Traditionalism” is actually sinking sand.

 

Here is his case :

My quarrel with Dr. Hankins has to do with his treatment of the middle ground views. As he differentiates between the libertarian free will views of the Traditionalists and the “determinism” of Calvinists, he dismisses the worth of middle ground viewpoints. It appears that he wants to set the discussion between the extremes (not to describe the views as extremist – both are mainstream Christian and Baptist viewpoints – but as the ends of the Calvinist continuum) of 5-point Calvinism and Traditionalism. One must logically hold to either libertarian free will or to deterministic Calvinism, according to Hankins and there is little value in the middle ground.

Miller’s basic point, with which I agree, is that the only logically coherent positions to hold on the question of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom are determinism and libertarianism. Miller’s “middle ground” position, which he dubs the “Amyraldian Antinomist,” opts for that which is logically incoherent: “An antinomy is something that is against the laws of logic – a logical contradiction.” Such logical contradictions, when affirmed in the Bible, must be believed by faith. For clarity’s sake, it is important to note the difference between paradox and antinomy. In a paradox, claims that appear to be contradictory actually are not. For an antinomy, the contradictions are real but undeniable. Antinomy is what Miller is affirming, and, while sounding attractive, it is actually disastrous. Miller is saying that the Bible and Christian doctrine sometimes violate the law of non-contradiction. Ligonier Ministries outlines why such a move is impermissible:

Faith and reason . . . belong together. Apart from faith, reason leads to futility. Without reason, faith becomes a blind leap that embraces contradictions. We see how this happens when people accept contradictory interpretations of Scripture as being equally true.

But God cannot contradict Himself. If He did, we could not believe what He says or know how to follow Him. If two people give a contradictory understanding of a text, either one of them is wrong or both of them are wrong. Both, however, cannot be right. Otherwise, the concept of truth loses all meaning. . . .

The law of noncontradiction is vital to the intelligibility of faith and life. Without it, the concept of truth loses all meaning.

If Miller is right, therefore, the possibility for knowledge of anything evaporates. No truth is possible because any truth could, at the same time, be false. Abandoning the law of non-contradiction is simply not an option.

Miller offers the doctrines of the Trinity and the hypostatic union as examples of such antinomy, but these examples fail because neither is logically contradictory. Miller states, “Either God is One or Three.” That sentence is logically contradictory, but it’s not what the doctrine of the Trinity affirms. God is not one God and three Gods at the same time; He is one essence and three persons at the same time. There is certainly some mystery as to what that means and how it is so, but it is not logically contradictory. Miller makes the same mistake in offering the example of the two natures of Christ. The hypostatic union does not state that Christ has one nature and two natures at the same time. It states that Christ is one person with two natures. The status of being both fully human and fully divine, while mysterious, is not logically contradictory.

Miller then goes on to apply the concept of antinomy to the issue of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom. This assertion, while quite common, makes two significant mistakes, mistakes that simply must be grasped to rightly understand the contours of the debate.

First, Traditionalists are not, I repeat, not arguing against the coherence of God’s sovereignty and human freedom. This must be understood. We affirm God’s real sovereignty and man’s real (therefore, libertarian) freedom. We are arguing against Calvinism’s attempt to reconcile determinism and human freedom. Miller’s substitution of sovereignty at the end of his post for determinism at the beginning is a common category error. When forced back into the proper arena of determinism, Calvinists like Miller have only two options: a philosophical coherence with serious theological problems or a theological coherence with serious philosophical problems. Miller opts for the latter, but it cannot be called the “middle” because it is still determinism, and it cannot be called “ground” because it offers no rational basis for belief.

Second, Traditionalists make the case that there are solid arguments for affirming the biblical concepts of true sovereignty and true freedom that do not violate the law of non-contradiction or the clear teaching of Scripture. These arguments, however, demand that theistic determinism be abandoned. The problem this poses for Calvinists is that dropping determinism eviscerates the system. Traditionalists argue that the middle ground most SBs have occupied is a non-determinist, libertarian middle ground that retains the strongest conceivable views of sovereignty, sin, security, Scripture, and the good-faith offer of salvation to every person. We believe that the vast majority of SBs reject theistic determinism. In doing so, they are affirming something very much like the TS. This is not a viewpoint at the extreme; it is the middle ground.

*The definition of “compatibilism” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”

 

 

1 Dave Miller May 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

My temptation is to write a response to Eric’s response to my response to his response to Finn’s response to the Journal article. However, there comes a time to move on from this and I’m guessing the readers may be at that point. Let me make a couple of statements in response and then I will walk away.

1) I do not feel that Eric’s response always accurately represented my views. I am not a technical theologian, and so perhaps I used certain words in a way that lead to misunderstanding. However, in much of his response, I find myself saying, “But that is not what I believe!” Maybe the fault is mine in how I articulated my views.

But I do feel that Eric only “understands” my intent when it feeds into his “us against them” narrative.

2) Eric, and some others (a few of whom were pretty brutal and insulting) have seized on the words “contradiction” and “logic” in my response post. Again, if these words are not used in the technically correct manner, that is on me. But I think anyone who read what I wrote with the desire to understand, not just to refute, would see what I meant. Let me attempt to clarify here.

3) In the antinomy principle, I am saying that the Bible often refers to two things as true that cannot both be true, according to the limited ability of reason, at the same time. I referred to these as logical contradictions. Pick your term. What I am saying is that there are things that cannot be understood by the human reasoning that can only be resolved in the mind and thoughts of God. I stand by my assertion that the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ are examples of that.

When I used the phrase that God is “one and three” I was not implying what Hankins inferred – again, I do not use the techical language of the academy sometimes. But the question is how can one God exist eternally in three persons, each of whom is fully God, not 1/3 of God. The Bible teaches that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.

These are truths that are REVEALED but cannot be EXPLAINED.

I maintain that the Bible teaches two truths – that God is sovereign in salvation and that man has a responsible choice toward God. I believe this is REVEALED even if it cannot be EXPLAINED.

4) God cannot contradiction himself. Of course not. But God may have aspects of his character that you and I cannot understand. His statement misses the ENTIRE point of my post. These “contradictions” (to use the inflammatory term) and not in GOD but in our frail human understanding of God.

5) In this discussion, Eric tries to paint me in a corner.
“If Miller is right, therefore, the possibility for knowledge of anything evaporates. No truth is possible because any truth could, at the same time, be false. Abandoning the law of non-contradiction is simply not an option.”

My assertion is not about knowledge, but about the ability to reason and understand. We can know whatever God reveals to us. WE can obey him. But we cannot understand it all.

So, in conclusion, I reject the effort to paint us into polar extremes. There are not just two positions – extremes at the poles of the conversation. One does not have to choose between 5 point Calvinism and hard-care Traditionalism. There are options that are based on a sound exegesis of Scripture.

2 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Great responses, Dave Miller!

It seems more and more clear to me that the painting of polar extremes is part of the game here and although I’ve been involved in trying to explain what I believe and refute every strawman they throw up I’m really trying to back away it’s getting ridiculous.

Liking to debate and discuss is one thing liking to fight is completely another – we need to stop.

3 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

And I by no means I’m trying to project guilt on anyone else….. I’m just saying no one person got us here by themselves and is going to take all of us to stop it.

4 D. L. Payton May 12, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Tarheel
Well said. We need to determine what we are trying to accomplish. If we are interested in building consensus and moving ahead, you are absolutely right on.

If we just want to argue and fight, count me out. I do not mean that in a holier than thou attitude. I am simply saying it is getting old and life is short.

5 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Dave,

I think most of us understood what you meant in your response Eric is responding to now. You were right then and you are even clearer and right here in the above comment.Thank you for standing strong in the onslaught of philosophical attempts to undermine your position and to attempt to neatly and in minute detail solve all the apparent dilemmas we encounter when we try to plumb the depths of god’s ways.

It is a bit ironic that Calvinists are the ones usually accused of relying on philosophical arguments and always trying to neatly have all the answers worked out.

6 Dave Miller May 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm

And, to follow up and finish my discussion here, my interchanges with Dr. Hankins, though they have not resulted in agreement in much of anything, have generated respect for him.

I do believe that we need to engage on theological issues. Both Eric and I have called the other wrong, but I think it is accurate to say that we leave this field of battle completely without rancor.

Thank you for the exchange

7 Christiane May 12, 2014 at 4:31 pm

well said, DAVID

8 David (NAS) Rogers May 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I haven’t finished the post yet, but this is a great sentence.

“This post is my response to his response to my response to Nathan Finn’s response to the “Traditional Statement” (TS) on Southern Baptist (SB) soteriology, which is our response to New Calvinism in the SBC, which is the Calvinist response to non-Calvinism in the SBC.”

9 Andy May 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Yes, but the sentance is not long enough….It needs to be continued:

“…which is the non-calvinists response to the particular baptists, which was a response to the rise of revivalism, which was a response to puritanism and the canons of dort,, which is the calvinist response to the remonstrance, which was Arminius’ response to Calvinism, which was Calvin’s response to the Catholic church….” (someone else can finish) :-)

10 David (NAS) Rogers May 12, 2014 at 2:33 pm

The goal is to construct a sentence which will be grammatically correct and summarize the entirety of the pendulum swings of Church history all the way back to the first century. Dare any of us attempt it?

11 Andy May 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I wonder what Eric would have a middle-grounder to do, if he looks at scripture and sees many scriptures that seem to teach God electing individuals to salvation and , and many other scriptures that seem to teach that each person must accept Christ in faith to receive salvation, and people acting against the will of God?

If we can find no convincing scriptural reason to overcome either of those teachings, should we simply ignore the verses that show God “determining” things, so that we can embrace a more logically consistent position? …or perhaps ignore the verses that speak of the people of Jerusalem, by their own stubborn will, determining their own condemnation IN OPPOSITION to Jesus’s expressed “will” to gather them to himself?

If we have not been convinced by either side to explain away what SEEM to be contradictory things…Should we simply pick a side so we can be more consistent, even if our understanding of scripture would lead us to not explain away certain verses so easily?

Eric’s post here makes a lot of sense…IF one speaks in generalities about scriptural “contradictions.” If one gets specific, then it often becomes more difficult to leave the middle, because you can honestly listen to both sides and say, “you have a good point.”

12 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Andy,

I can’t speak for Dr. Hankins, but for me, I don’t see any “Scriptures which seem to teach God electing individuals to salvation.” Therein lies the problem. I’m not saying you don’t see them, no doubt you do. I’m saying I don’t see them and I’m assuming Dr. Hankins as well.

13 David R. Brumbelow May 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Dr Eric Hankins,

Thanks again for your writing.
You have a way of making things very clear and understandable.

You said,
“We affirm God’s real sovereignty and man’s real (therefore, libertarian) freedom.”

Great statement, and I agree.
David R. Brumbelow

14 Greg Buchanan May 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

The only response to the OP I can think of that is appropreate is this;

“Your overconfidence is your weakness…”

15 Dave Miller May 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Point to Greg.

16 Rick Patrick May 12, 2014 at 2:53 pm

If I understand Hankins correctly, compatibilism must be viewed as a subset of determinism because it reconciles free will with determinism itself—thus, it is determinism with free will somehow attached. By contrast, the Traditionalist understanding is that free will and determinism are logically contradictory and thus *intrinsically incompatible.*

This incompatibility is necessary, from the standpoint of the Traditionalist, in order to rescue God from the monstrous charge that He *could* have saved everyone but simply didn’t choose to love the reprobate as much as He loved the elect—for some mysterious, unconditional reason of His own.

For the Traditionalist, God’s love is not so much on trial. Once God firmly established that love (and therefore man’s response) must be totally free—rather than programmed irresistibly—He voluntarily exercised His sovereignty in a manner that limited His power to save, choosing to save only those who freely responded with repentance and faith to His conditional offer of salvation extended to everyone.

I appreciate the spirit of the exchange by both men, but I think we can easily see that a Traditionalist cannot possibly yield to compatibilism, for our view depends upon the logical contradiction between determinism and free will.

17 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm

To the extent my own view is the same as Miller’s, I think it could also be stated, from a Calvinist perspective, that “Amyraldian Antinomy” (or whatever you choose to call it) is really a subset of Traditionalism, because it reconciles free will with determinism, and thus, is Traditionalism with determinism somehow attached.

Also, as I understand it, to position one view in the “middle ground” implies that there are extremes on both sides of it. If Traditionalism is the “middle ground,” and determinism is on one extreme, what is the extreme on the other side? I guess we could say it is full-blown Arminianism; but the spectrum we are talking about, as I understand it, is that of Southern Baptists, not of Christianity at large. And there are very few, if any, true Arminians (i.e. who do not believe in the perseverance of the saints) in the SBC.

Thus, as I understand it, Miller’s main point still stands–i.e. that the position(s) occupying the middle ground between “Traditionalism” and classical 5-point Calvinism in the SBC are often under-represented and un-respected in the debates and discussions on these matters.

18 Dave Miller May 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

When I grow up, I want to be David Rogers.

19 Rick Patrick May 12, 2014 at 5:43 pm

That’s certainly another way of looking at it. But as long as the determinism is attached, one must own it. One is not in the middle if one embraces determinism. One is toward the deterministic—or Calvinistic—side.

And yes, on the spectrum of Five Point Calvinism and One Point Calvinism, one can find positions in the middle—namely, Two Pointers, Three Pointers and Four Pointers. But Eric’s point all along has been the need to liberate us from the template of the TULIP. I don’t believe he considers it helpful.

Also, it seems to me that we are talking about two different kinds of “middle.” One kind of middle is linear—the Three Pointer located on the line between the One Pointer and the Five Pointer. But there is also the “middle voter” or “median position” in which 50% of the convention lies to the Calvinist side and 50% lies to the Traditionalist side. This is more of a reflection of the popular view among 100% of Southern Baptists.

To put it bluntly, I don’t think the latter middle is in the former middle. I don’t believe our convention is a bell curve between Five Point Calvinism and One Point Calvinism. I think we GREATLY reject Limited Atonement and MOSTLY reject Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace. I think our Depravity, for the most part, does not mean Inability. And, of course, I agree that we all embrace Perseverance.

If MORE than 50% of the convention could be defined by this 1-1.5 point Calvinism, then the middle isn’t in the middle at all. That’s why Trads are on one side (with perhaps 75% of the SBC), Five Point Cals are on the other side (with perhaps 15% of the SBC), and the 3-4 Pointers are feeling a bit left out (with perhaps 10% of the SBC) following this more nuanced view.

You may disagree with my projections. But if you feel under-represented and disrespected, you can always form a soteriologically driven ministry fellowship like Calvinists did (Founders in 1983) and Traditionalists did (Connect 316 in 2013) in order to determine how many Amyraldians there might be in the convention. Perhaps we are a convention filled with Four Pointers. I just don’t think so.

20 Ken Hamrick May 12, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Dr. Patrick,

You say, “One is not in the middle if one embraces determinism. One is toward the deterministic—or Calvinistic—side.” The middle is not merely the embracing of the principle that God is the ultimate determiner of the destinies of men; but it is also the embracing of the principle that men in every decision are “free to choose otherwise.” Calvinists only affirm the former and Trads only affirm the latter; but the Middle Position affirms both.

21 Johnathan Pritchett May 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

Not quite Ken.

I am a Traditionalist, and I happily affirm that God is the ultimate determiner of the destinies of men. God determined that those who believe are saved and those who do not are lost. That former includes our latter we also embrace, which is that people are free to choose otherwise. This is the position that affirms both, and does so without contradiction.

What Calvinists do is claim more than Scripture claims in this regard.

22 Debbie Kaufman May 13, 2014 at 9:29 am

Jonathan: The question remains however, can a human being make a decision opposite of what God knows that person will do? I don’t see how the answer could be yes, but if it is, What would that do to God being all that He is?

23 Debbie Kaufman May 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

What Calvinists do is claim more than Scripture claims in this regard.

The Bible says we throw the dice but God determines how it will fall. (Proverbs 16:33)

24 Les Prouty May 13, 2014 at 11:09 am

Johnathan,

re Debbie’s question I would add a quote from Bly whom I’ve also quoted in another question to you and Eric. He wrote:

“Libertarianism poses problems also for God’s omniscience, particularly regarding future events. The biblical God foreknows the future fully, in all its details. If our future decisions are inherently uncertain, how can God foreknow them? If God knows our decisions beforehand, does this not imply that they are fully predictable?”

What say you?

25 John Wylie May 13, 2014 at 11:48 am

Of course God knows all things perfectly. And, no doubt Arminianism has opened the door to the entrance of open theism. But having said that I don’t see how God have perfect knowledge somehow contradicts man have a somewhat free will.

26 Les Prouty May 13, 2014 at 11:53 am

John W.,

I realize there are still a lot of questions hanging around out there. But re God knowing all things, what do you think of this from John Feinberg?

“If indeterminism is correct, I do not see how God can be said to foreknow the future. If God actually knows what will (not just might) occur in the future, the future must be set and some sense of determinism applies. God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of the future, but it guarantees that what God knows must occur, regardless of how it is brought about” (“God Ordains All Things,” in Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom [ed. David Basinger and Randall Basinger.

Thanks brother.

27 Ken Hamrick May 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Johnathan Pritchett,

You said:

I am a Traditionalist, and I happily affirm that God is the ultimate determiner of the destinies of men. God determined that those who believe are saved and those who do not are lost. That former includes our latter we also embrace, which is that people are free to choose otherwise. This is the position that affirms both, and does so without contradiction.

It is not helpful to redefine terms in such a way as coopt the opposition’s tenet—it only serves to confuse. Besides, what you describe is not the normal meaning of “God determining the destinies of men,” but is instead a generalized meaning. Next, you’ll be telling us you are a determinist, since you supposedly hold that God determines the destinies of men.

28 Ken Hamrick May 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Debbie Kaufman,

You stated:

The question remains however, can a human being make a decision opposite of what God knows that person will do? I don’t see how the answer could be yes, but if it is, What would that do to God being all that He is?

If God determines the events of human history and the decisions of men, He does not do it by mere foreknowledge, but must instead do it by purposeful intervention. God sees the future like we see the present, but merely seeing which choice is made does nothing to force that decision. The common question you bring up misses the fact that God sees all of time at once, but “each moment in its own time.” In other words, he sees you making that choice tomorrow, but in that choice you are making it just as freely as you make choices today. It is not that you will not be free to make other choices, but rather, that in your freedom you will choose to make the one that God sees you making. If you, in that future moment, had chosen to take a different course, then God would have seen that different course. Merely seeing the future no more restricts freedom than seeing the past restricts the freedom of past moments.

29 parsonsmike May 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Ken.
RE: your reply to Debbie Kauffman:

You are correct that in one sense we are still free tomorrow to make choices just as we are free today and as we were yesterday. And you are correct that God’s foreknowledge does not restrict our freedom from that perspective: in that we freely choose.

But what it does do is He knows our pick. So in that perspective, our unknown-to-us choice we will make tomorrow is just as certain as the choice we made yesterday. As the past is fixed, so is the future fixed to God.

What LFW says is that such knowledge of our future choice means that we HAVE to choose what God foresees and so, if so, our choice is not free but determined. But I think Christian LFW might be different.

30 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 6:19 pm

As I’ve stated before, if we want to talk about the five points (which, incidentally, I didn’t bring up), I consider myself to simultaneously affirm 4 1/2 points of TULIP and 3 1/2 of non-TULIP. Does that leave me in the middle, or somewhere else?

And I have no, zilch, nada, interest in forming an Antinomist fellowship in the SBC. That is the total opposite of what I am trying to advocate for.

31 Ben Coleman May 12, 2014 at 5:58 pm

And there are very few, if any, true Arminians (i.e. who do not believe in the perseverance of the saints) in the SBC

Technically, Arminianism (if you go by the original Remonstants’ position) leaves the question of perseverance of the saints up in the air. You can be a ‘True Arminian’ and believe in the perseverance of the saints. OTOH, it’s my observation that Baptists tend to define Arminianism solely as “Doesn’t believe once-saved-always-saved”.

32 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Okay, maybe I should say “zero-pointers.” But that would not satisfy some in the discussion, either, would it? Labels are one of the big bugbears in this discussion, it seems to me. Thanks for the heads up, anyway.

33 William Carpenter May 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Ben, thanks for pointing that issue out. In this whole discussion I have been bugged most by the assumption that Arminians do not affirm “once-saved-always-saved.” Especially from non-Calvinists who would say they are not Arminian because they believe in perseverance of the saints. Essentially original Arminian theology was “We don’t know on this point,” and you can find Arminians who believe it, those who don’t, and some who still say they don’t know.

34 Ben Coleman May 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I’ll have to admit, though, that even as one who leans Arminian (or Hermanszoonish), and went to an Arminian college (Asbury), I wasn’t aware of this until a certain SBC Voices post got me digging into original Arminian theology. Plenty of people who claim the Arminian label don’t realize it either.

35 Robert Vaughn May 12, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Isn’t the Traditionalist idea that God determined that each and every individual would have libertarian free will to chose or reject the Savior also some sort of determinism?

36 Christiane May 12, 2014 at 5:39 pm

perhaps being ‘formed in His Image’ brings with it the dignity of ‘personhood’ complete with a mind, a soul, a body, and a spirit that is CAPABLE of having a sense of ‘self’ and a sense of ‘the other’ and comprehending the impact of his or her own actions as to how it affects self and other for good or for ill . . .

37 Greg Buchanan May 12, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Nice try…. you think logic really works in this realm?

Didn’t you see the tree stumps when you fell down this rabbit hole?

38 Robert Vaughn May 12, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Greg, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Perhaps I am so obscure that you have no idea what I’m talking about either.

Basically, I’m asking Traditionalists if they believe God determined that men would be saved by their libertarian free will choice, or if God did not determine it would be that way. Seems to me the other option is that He is letting things run on auto-pilot.

39 Greg Buchanan May 12, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Agreed. It was a reference to Alice in Wonderland where the logical does not always follow… or at least not like it should.

You are correct in your observation that it is a logical falicy to prosecute determinsm as a foul beast, yet claim that the free will to do so was also determined in the same manner as the aforementioned determinism of the Determiner… who, becasue we have so determined, can only determine in the manner in which we have proscribed, namely the second determination, but not in the prosecuted determination.

Now, for this to all make sense, either use the bottle that says drink me or join the caterpiller at the hookah. Under no circmstances should you follow the cat.

By consensus we have determined that cats are bad.

40 Johnathan Pritchett May 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

No Robert. It is a determination God made, not determinism qua determinism (in the philosophical sense with respect to volition). Big difference. God making a determination is not determinism qua determinism, and of course, it would be an equivocation fallacy to suggest otherwise.

Also, Christiane gets it right. That man had “no choice” but to be a morally free and accountable agent is not the same as determinism qua determinism. Free will doesn’t give people the choice to be taller than they end up being and/or play for the NBA either, but no one has ever claimed otherwise, except sarcastic determinists in caricaturing the position (whether Calvinists or Atheists/Naturalists).

41 Robert Masters May 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Actually I agree with Eric Hankins here.

Compatibilism is soft determinism!

The pre-suppositional disagreement is between Libertine Free Will and Compatabilistic Free Will.

My question to Dr Hankins and a host of other Southern Baptist is why wont you accept the label of evangelical Arminian like Jerry Walls has at HBU.?

42 Johnathan Pritchett May 13, 2014 at 9:39 am

I’ll posit two things on that.

1. Traditionalists are not Arminians. Arminians do theology in contradistinction on a particular spectrum in Western theology. Traditionalism does not typically operate on that spectrum.

2. Arminianism is too broad a category for soteriology. Traditionalism holds to the same theological propositions, while Arminians can range from Classical Reformed to Wesleyan to Open Theism, like the spectrum that is Calvinism with respect to points (Amyraldian for instance). Given that, Traditionalism defines a narrow scope outlined in those who affirm the statement, which is still, all things considered, most likely representative of the majoritarian position within the SBC.

In any case, I don’t get “upset” when “accused” of being an “Arminian,” since unlike many Baptists (Trads or Calvinists), I don’t think it is a dirty word. I simply prefer to be labeled the label I identify and go by myself, but understand people either won’t or don’t respect that.

43 William Carpenter May 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm

As one who finds myself largely within Dave Miller’s middle ground, let me point out a couple of problems I see within the above article.

First, I tend to identify myself as someone who leans Calvinist. To me the distinguishing characteristic is affirming unconditional election. As Hankins does point out I do not see a middle ground between one who affirms unconditional election and one who does not. It’s an either/or proposition. I would go on to affirm determinism. Thus I concede Hankins’ first point. Again either someone affirms determinism or they do not. Thus either one affirms determinism or one affirms libertarianism. To this I would agree with Hankins, but this is not a new question. The church has known that one was either in one category or the other for almost all of church history.

The problem Hankins has, though, is that he lumps all that affirm determinism together and then characterizes them as if they believed everything that either leading proponents of Calvinism affirm. Likewise he would suggest that all who affirm libertarianism are Traditionalists who would affirm TS. I affirm determinism, but I disagree with much of “High Calvinism” and much of what Piper advocates (for instance, I disagree with their ordo salutis). Likewise there are many individuals who not affirm determinism but likewise would not affirm the Traditional Statement thus Traditionalists cannot claim them as being Traditionalists just because they do not affirm determinism. This is Miller’s point. Either the argument is between High Calvinists and Traditionalists in which case leave the rest of us out of it and argue between the points of each, or the argument is between determinism and libertarianism in which case state that plainly and keep the argument pertinent to that debate and quit grouping everybody into Traditionalist and High Calvinist camps. (BTW, since there is no middle ground between determinism and libertarianism, the Traditionalism cannot characterized as middle ground between those two camps any more than Dave’s Antinomist Amyraldian position can).

Second, I must confess that when I read Dave’s article, much of which I agree with, I was struck by one idea that I didn’t like. That idea was his use of the idea of logical incoherence. I kept thinking concerning Dave’s article that what was meant was a paradox. The reconciling of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is a paradox. I cannot understand it, but that does not mean it is not true. Now let me point out that when I say such I am not saying that reconciling determinism and libertarianism is a paradox. Those two positions are indeed logically incoherent. However free will is not be equated with libertarianism any more than sovereignty is to be equated with determinism. Thus Hankins makes the same mistake he accuses Dave of when equates free will with libertarianism. I could just as easily say that we affirm God’s real sovereignty (therefore determinism) and man’s real freedom. Instead I will point out that both sides affirm God’s real sovereignty and man’s real freedom, although they debate what is meant by sovereignty and freedom.

44 parsonsmike May 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm

William,
Astute observations.

45 Ken Hamrick May 12, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Dr. Hankins,

The problem with logic is that it is only as good as the presuppositions on which it is based. Using logic, fallible men construct a chain of reasoning (“If A is true and B is true, then C necessarily follows; as well as D, E, F, G, etc.), giving too much weight to their conclusions and too little examination of their premises—and have far too much confidence in the whole process. You have claimed that the middle ground is logically contradictory, but you have only assumed your premises and presuppositions.

Such fallible logic has been used to construct philosophies, with which many Christians have become enamored, such as determinism and its counterpart, libertarianism. Neither of these has come from Scripture, but have come from the unbelieving world. Philosophies are only useful to the extent that they comport with the truths of Scripture. Scripture is the ultimate standard of truth, and not philosophy—and where one must be bent to fit the other, it must be philosophy that gives way and not the Bible. But while men lack the confidence in understanding certain truths in Scripture, they lack no confidence in human reasoning and the power of logic and philosophy to explain these truths.

As philosophies from the secular academy, neither determinism nor libertarianism are Biblical. Determinism claims that all things happen of necessity, such that no real alternative possibilities exist. In determinism, there are no real choices being made by men, but only causes being carried through to their necessary effects. With Calvinism’s emphasis on the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s total reliance on grace, they found determinism appealing as a philosophical explanation. However, the Bible everywhere presupposes that men are true agents, faced with real decisions—and that in these decisions, they are confronted with more than one possible course of action. Every man’s conscience and daily experience together testify that in every wrong decision made, the right choice was not only available but should have been taken. No man shall be able to claim at the Judgment, “I had to choose to sin at 3 pm, May 12, 2014, since it was the necessary effect of all antecedent causes—it was impossible for me to do otherwise.”

While libertarianism (or soft-libertarianism, as Traditionalists hold) gives all men the “freedom to choose otherwise” in whatever decisions with which they are faced, it ultimately leaves the destinies of men to chance and circumstance. Affirming that all men do have enough of a revelation of God to leave them without excuse for choosing sin and self over God, the libertarians neglect that fact that disparities of the number and extent of influences toward God are selective. This is the very reason why we endeavor to send missionaries to peoples who have never heard the gospel. If it is not because we believe that many of them can be saved through such efforts whom would never be saved otherwise, then why go? It is a fact that in places where such influences toward God are present, such as the preaching of the gospel and the availability of both the Bible and the testimony of believers, people get saved—and where such influences are not present, people do not get saved. And this principle is true on a much smaller, more individual scale, in that no man comes to Christ without benefiting from those personal influences that God brings to bear in a man’s life, from having God knock down all his idols through the orchestration of events in his life, to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, etc. Was it really just by chance that someone’s tire blew out and he was given a ride by a believer (and later gets saved)? Either God is really in control of such selective disparities of influence, or God is not really in control of much and those who perish are the victims of circumstance.

So now, we are told that we must choose one or the other of these faulty philosophies, or be guilty of logical contradiction. In all of your efforts to show how logical contradiction is unacceptable, you never bothered to establish that any contradiction is involved in the middle position. I’m not denying that a contradiction is commonly assumed, but you ought not to base your logical objection on that assumption alone. How do you propose to prove that a contradiction is involved in affirming both that men freely choose and that God has the “master choice?” Unless you can prove this, your objection fails.

Antinomy, as Brother Dave has affirmed it, is NOT the embracing of a contradiction, but the embracing of Biblical principles as true based only on the fact that they are Scriptural, even without the ability to fully understand the mystery of how they work together. It is you, and not us, who see a contradiction. The burden of proof is on you.

46 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Ken,

While I disagree with some of what you say (for instance I’m a soft determinist as it is often called, or compatiblist sometimes and thus see God’s absolute decree and control of all things AND man’s real responsibility…and don’t have the time or smarts to debate you on it…I just see it in scripture as I read it), whew!, yet I agree with much of your critique of Eric’s and the others of his vew. I have said elsewhere that as I read these posts by Eric, it seems to me he is contrasting his libertarian free will view with hard determinism. I could be wrong. But that’s why I say I can agree much with you and Dave.

Blessings,

Les

47 Ken Hamrick May 12, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Thanks, Les. Part of the Trads’ error is that they assume that philosophical determinism is the only available means of understanding the Biblical principle that God is the ultimate determiner of the destinies of men. But God is able to carry out His plan in every detail without making everything necessary and eliminating all alternative possibilities.

Determinism actually doesn’t need God except to start everything off. Once God creates the world, and knocks over the first domino, then all the other dominoes throughout history fall without fail. Libertarianism denies that the world works by such a necessary, mechanical-like cause-and-effect process. But here is where the Trads fail: even without the mechanical-like cause-and-effect process of determinism, God is still present and actively intervening in the world—and is fully capable of determining the destinies of men without denying men their freedom to choose otherwise.

48 parsonsmike May 12, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Ken,
More astute thoughts.

49 John Fariss May 13, 2014 at 9:50 am

I have not had time to fully digest your comment here. However, I want to thank you for leading off with something I have been saying here for years, seemingly on deaf ears: namely that, “The problem with logic is that it is only as good as the presuppositions on which it is based.” I would go one step further to clarify that: presuppositions often operate that a non-articulated, perhaps even sub-conscious level. It take considerable work in order to even identify some of our presuppositions. Some folks here have told me, “My only presupposition is that the Bible says it,” or “My only presupposition is that the Bible is inerrant,” or something similar. No, that is rarely if ever their only presupposition. There are others, such as, “The Bible is a book of propositional truth, such that any statement in it can be used as a major or minor premise in a syllogism,” “The Bible is the sourcebook for a system of systematic theology in which everything can be reconciled” or “It is proper to apply 1st Century (and earlier) documents written from an ancient Middle Eastern perspective in a 15th-16th Century western European philosophical manner.” Our presuppositions MUST be examined!

John

50 Johnathan Pritchett May 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

I am sorry, but philosophy has categories already, and not calling determinism determinism doesn’t deliver you from embracing determinism, as you have done above.

Rather than, like Oneness Pentecostals and Open Theists, decry philosophy, especially “Greek Philosophy (whatever that means) as the boogie man of all theological woes, it is perhaps best to embrace the love of wisdom. Scripture does.

The problem is not that the Bible posits all this mystery we can figure out and thus need to opt out of trying to escape logic (while men are fallible, logic is not) and even worse, unwanted logically necessary conclusion, one can reason with regard to Scripture aimed primarily at illiterate peasants and see it as easy to understand for the most part, and the mysteries therein (Gentile inclusion that was revealed, etc.) are most likely not the mysteries we come up with.

Calvinists are not the only one who places “emphasis on the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s total reliance on grace,” as Traditionalists do also. Nothing about God’s absolute sovereignty or man’s absolute dependence upon grace has anything to do with either determinism or free will issue. This patently false premise is too often assumed and accepted by Calvinists, and thus needless conversations about it ensue.

“Either God is really in control of such selective disparities of influence, or God is not really in control of much and those who perish are the victims of circumstance.”

False dichotomy since you, though you don’t seem to like the word determinism, think that God being in control of things equals determinism (by some other name). In fact, it is determinism that makes everyone a victim of circumstance, not libertarian freedom. On deterministic schemes, everything is simply an “is”. You were correct in your assessment of determinism, but I don’t ultimately see you affirming anything different after all that discussion about God, influences, and such, most of which was agreeable.

“Antinomy, as Brother Dave has affirmed it, is NOT the embracing of a contradiction.”

No. As it was defined, and then even later clarified, it still leads to contradiction once put to the rigors of philosophical inquiry (which isn’t an evil thing). Whether or not it is embraced is irrelevant.

“How do you propose to prove that a contradiction is involved in affirming both that men freely choose and that God has the ‘master choice?’”

Easy, by misunderstanding Scripture.

Namely, by misunderstanding that God’s “master choice” was to choose Christ and by extension the body of Christ, by which one becomes a member in union through repentance and faith.

If one affirms something Scripture nowhere affirms, namely, that God determined the individual members to be in that body, then there is no free choice at all they made to be in that body, they simply made a “compatiblist” choice, which is determined and not free in the sense of the word free that everyone other than Calvinists mean by the word free.

No harm if one rejects freedom, but it is rather odd if one who essentially affirms determinism protests determinism.

51 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 7:32 pm

But can’t someone affirm what we see taught in scripture lending itself to both either/or positions while admitting we don’t understand how they coexist? Does everything have to fit nicely in the philosophical boxes we’ve created?

His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways higher than our ways.

I still like the inscriptions on either side of the “salvation door” that we referenced in David Rogers article.

52 Greg Buchanan May 12, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Does everything have to fit nicely in the philosophical boxes we’ve created?

Yes it does; its called compartmentalization. Well, seeing all of the terminology used here, lets call it comparmentalism :)

Compartmentalization is a peculiar trait of the later day Builders generation (greatest generation) and especially so of the Boomer generation. Everything has labeled, catagorized, situated, known, quantified, so we can understand it and then decide (or determine if you wish) what to do with it and how to react to it.

Since they (both generations) have been in charge for a while in the SBC, there is a great deal of catagorizing that has happend, is happening, will happen, will be going to happen, etc.

It is too scary to think that something can belong to more than one catagory: we can’t really deal with it properly if we don’t know what it is… or so goes the thought process. Also, safety in numbers, since most (as they see it) people catagorize/swim in the same direction, then it is the safe stream to be in (this is called circular reasoning, btw).

Ergo, we have this discussion with such vehemence and condescension:

How could anyone really believe __________?!?

53 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Ahhhh…thanks Greg! It all makes sense now. ;-)

54 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Greg, especially I agree with what certainly seems like condescending tones. It’s as if the bubble over some heads is Idiot! For the record, there are many highly esteemed and brilliant theologians who hold to the compatiblism view. How could THEY be so ignorant?!

55 Greg Harvey May 12, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Except, Les, we’re all capable of and many of us (read that ALL just to hammer the point I’m making) guilty of condescension from time to time…

No one will concede the arrogance with respect to themselves. Only with respect to others.

56 parsonsmike May 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm

God does more the simply foresee the future.
What? He made the world because He foresaw, in the end, He would ‘win’?

Libertarian free will means that there are no outside or external to one’s soul causes in deciding what to choose.
That is plainly untrue.

We are influenced by all sorts of external things that we are not even conscious of. For example, advertising works. Yes it does. It influences people to buy their product, or to use their service, even when the consumer doesn’t or isn’t actively considering the ad they saw when they choose to spend.

There are ways a young woman can influence a young man to act in certain ways, that he never will know about, that he doesn’t ever think about, but yet she influences him.

The very idea of debate and persuasive words is not to mechanically change peoples opinions but to use techniques that influence thoughts even if subconsciously.

In other words, none of us are free in a libertarian way, and none of us makes decisions uninfluenced. Not Dave Miller, not Rick Patrick, not Eric Hankins, not John Piper, no one. We are influenced by hereditary, by our environment both now and from our past, we are influenced by circumstances, and we are influenced by our emotions, which themselves our also influenced by a wide range of factors. We sometimes think logically and other times we think illogically.

Now if this world can influence our choices in a variety of ways, why can’t the Almighty Creator God, sustainer of all things, designer of our minds, why can’t He also influence us?

I affirm that He does. I affirm that everyone who has been or will saved, is greatly influenced by God, and that it is because of God and God alone, that each of us chose Him.

57 Johnathan Pritchett May 13, 2014 at 10:39 am

“Libertarian free will means that there are no outside or external to one’s soul causes in deciding what to choose.
That is plainly untrue.”

Not quite, depending on what you mean.

Libertarianism certainly posits means and influences that go into consideration of the choice. Namely, if nothing were presented outside a person, there is nothing to be chosen. One can’t decide to choose fries or onion rings while standing in line at Burger King and asked the question if Burger King didn’t exist.

The availability of choice isn’t the cause of the choice though, if by “cause” you simply mean the “ground” that determines the choice.

“Now if this world can influence our choices in a variety of ways, why can’t the Almighty Creator God, sustainer of all things, designer of our minds, why can’t He also influence us?”

I don’t know of anyone who has ever stated otherwise.

58 Les Prouty May 13, 2014 at 10:59 am

Johnathan,

I quoted Bly below as he said,

“Libertarians contend that our will is genuinely free only if our choosing is not pre-determined by external and internal conditions. They assert that our motives and beliefs may incline us toward a particular choice, but they should not guarantee it.”

You espouse LFW, right? Do you agree or disagree with Bly’s statement.

59 parsonsmike May 12, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Can we make choices free of our nature?
Or do our choices reflect our nature?

If we make choices to reflect our nature can we do so freely?
or does our nature determine our choices?

Or do we make choices based on our understanding and our desires?
Are these choices determined simply because they reflect our nature?

There is two perspectives on the certainty of events. One is God’s. To Him every event is certain because he has infallible foreknowledge. Your choice of color for your shirt tomorrow is known to God: you will choose that color.

The other perspective is man’s. I do not know what color my shirt will be tomorrow and I may grab two different colored shirts out of the closet and agonize over the decision. I have, in my perspective the freedom to choose.

In the end, I will choose exactly as God knew yesterday I would.
So to ask the question: “Could i have done any different?” depends on the perspective one is looking through when one answers.

One answer is: “No, I HAD to choose that shirt.”
The other answer is: “Yes, I could have chosen the other one.”

Neither perspective depends on Libertarian free will or Compatibilism.

Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics.

60 parsonsmike May 12, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Eric,

You wrote:
First, Traditionalists are not, I repeat, not arguing against the coherence of God’s sovereignty and human freedom. This must be understood. We affirm God’s real sovereignty and man’s real (therefore, libertarian) freedom. We are arguing against Calvinism’s attempt to reconcile determinism and human freedom –

You also defined compatibilism:
The definition of “compatibilism” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”

Under the definition of Compatibilism, free will and determinism are not contradictory. And that in philosophical circles, the attempt to reconcile the two is not done by just Calvinists. And in fact, it is a more widely held view than Libertarian free will. As philosophizing goes your position is held by a minority.

Rather, is one reason you are against Calvinism because LFW is indeterministic?
That is defined:
Indeterminism is the concept that events (certain events, or events of certain types) are not caused, or not caused deterministically (cf. causality) by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance. It is highly relevant to the philosophical problem of free will, particularly in the form of metaphysical libertarianism.

If so, does that mean it is possible some events are caused?
Would you say that no choice of man is caused or determined?

And finally, is the main reason you hold to your position because otherwise the love of God for all people comes into question?

61 parsonsmike May 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Rick and Eric,

Rick said,
This incompatibility is necessary, from the standpoint of the Traditionalist, in order to rescue God from the monstrous charge that He *could* have saved everyone but simply didn’t choose to love the reprobate as much as He loved the elect—for some mysterious, unconditional reason of His own.
- See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/a-response-to-millers-amyraldian-antinomy-by-eric-hankins/#comment-239968

This a bogus charge that evaporates as soon as it is looked into.
God has infallible foreknowledge, and knew before he created EXACTLY who and what their names were, who would go to Hell, and created any how. And He also knew that NO MATTER WHAT He did or we did, these people would end up there.
Did He then create for some mysterious unconditional reason of His own, to make this world knowing full well that billions of people would go to Hell?
Yes.

Yes He did.

Oh how He loved them!

Or did He create this world for His glory and to receive the glory He rightfully deserves and did so at the expense of those He knew would end up in Hell?

Yes.

Yes He did.

Oh how He loved them??

What we, as humans, have is a problem with pride. We think so much of ourselves that we fail to give God His due and we end up lowering Him in our eyes.

Yet we read in Isaiah 40:
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.

and…

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

Read the rest of the chapter. You will see that God considers His people different than the rest.
Consider His foreknowledge of the destiny of billions.

62 dr. james willingham May 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Dave: You out did yourself in your response to Dr. Hankins. He is not aware of it, but he actually operates according to the same logical principles as John Calvin and Gordon Clark, the philosopher theologian of Butler University during the mid-20th century. Calvin and Clark operated according to a view from Aristotelian logic which demands that there be no contradictions. The truth of the matter is that for over a century (approximately 1560-1660) Calvinism was dominated by the logical views of Peter Ramus which recognize that there are such problems that the logical consistency demands of Aristotle cannot handle. David, your views on antinomy along with mine on paradox are more reflective of biblical and theological reality than is that of Calvin or Hankins. I suggest that all readers of this blog look up the terms we have used and that they consider the term irony along with the two mentioned. Actually, Baptists of the South in particular have been noted for their Calvinism (really Sovereign Grace, using the term more reflective of the scriptural reality) which was not a logically consistent viewpoint. Just look at the works (the commentaries and theological writings) of John Gill which were recommended to the pastors of the Charleston Baptist Association. Then consider how Gill makes the unprecedented statement That God decreed to damn no man but for sin nor did he decree to damn any but for sin. He also declared that no man in his right mind would condemn God for sending such people to Hell upon whom He has devoted such largesses of common grace, etc.(How well He treated them). And if, Dr. Hankins thinks to beg off by way of the Separate Baptists, he might want to consider that for 40 years the First Baptist Church of Charleston had Separate Baptist pastors, Dr. Richard Furman and Dr. Basil Manly, Sr., approximately 1785-1836. Both men were noted for their Calvinism. Manly, Sr., was present, serving as clerk of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association in 1816, when Rev. Luther Rice visited that organization to enlist Separate Baptists in the Modern Missionary Movement. Manly was surely influenced by Rice who declared, for example, that election and predestination were in the Bible and had better be preached. Furman was pastoring when the Charleston Association recommended Gill’s works to its pastors. He was also the first president of the Triennial Convention, the first national missionary organization designed to promote the great cause of missions.

The asymmetrical nature of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility are truths that we cannot reconcile. In fact, I dare say that they were not meant to be reconciled. Interestingly enough, Arthur Pink in his work, The Sovereignty of God, had a chapter on Reprobation. That chapter is in the American Edition, but it was left out of the Banner of Truth Edition. I have heard that Pink asked for it to be left out, and I have read that Ian Murray left it out. In any case, I was setting in my study one day reading that chapter, when I noticed that something was wrong with a quote which Pink had made from Bunyan’s sermon on Reprobation. Since I had Bunyan’s work, I turned to it. I won’t keep everyone from the pleasure of doing the spade work, but I will say that as far as I was concerned, Pink quoted Bunyan out of context.

In any case, it soon becomes obvious that the Baptists of the South in their views on Sovereign Grace held to the TULIP views in the 1600s (FBC Charleston, 1683), the Charleston and Sandy Creek Associations (the articles of faith of the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church organized in 1814 mentions Christ dying for the church, not one word about His dying for everyone without exception. There is more, but I would prefer to see Dr. Hankins examine the history more closely than one of his colleagues, a President of a college who has written a few items on the subject.

And here is the reason why: Silas Mercer, the father of Jesse Mercer after whom Mercer University was named, wrote of the God honoring doctrine of predestination and God generally owns and blesses (it) to the conviction and conversion of sinners. Our problem is that we lack knowledge of therapeutic paradoxes and even of God’s usage of opposites such as that found in Jonah 3. But I would cease, hoping for Dr. Hankins to pay some attention to the reality of the older Southern Baptist so-called Calvinists.

63 SVMuschany May 13, 2014 at 12:09 am

Seriously? And “traditionalists” wonders why some want to label them as semi (or full) pelagians? I understand the push back against full determinism (or fatalism) as seeing as I lean (or fully falling) into that boat. But to go much beyond the compatiblism position is frankly dangerous. If man truly has full libertarian free will, with no limitations on those actions, then by definition God can not have full inerrant omniscience. If God knows exactly how everything will turn out, and accordingly every single choice everyone will make, then to a certain degree the future is set in stone. Does He make our choices for us? No, and that is where compatiblism comes into play blending the divine foreknowledge of God and the free will choice of man.

The reason this is a danger is when you combine some of the views that are coming out of some of the “traditionalists” camp. Namely a questioning of the classical Augustinian view of Depravity. If man has true free will, then man can choose Christ Jesus prior to any act by God. This is something that has been rejected since Augustine. This is something that by definition is semi-pelagian. You might not like that claim, but I challenge anyone to use historical understandings of what semi-pelagianism actually is to refute what I just said. Even classical Arminianism (including Weslyan branches) believe that man is unable due to the fall to choose God, so God gave everyone a measure of Grace allowing them to make a choice. This is classically understood as Synergism. God knew who was going to choose him, but he made the free offer to everyone none the less, enabling everyone the “chance” to make the choice. And yet even in this, there is a small measure of determinism in God’s actions. What was to be still was written in stone.

Again, only when one drifts into semi-pelagian thought (or further) does one gain the ability to say that the future is not determined. And that is the same as saying, “God does not know”. That my friends is heresy. And i hope that we can affirm that traditionalists within the SBC are not trying to say that. Which is why the knee jerk reaction against all forms of determinism is so troubling. Again, it leads down a very very dangerous road.

64 dr. james willingham May 13, 2014 at 9:57 am

Dear SVMuschany: The charge of Semi Pelagianism as far as I can determine, via the internet, was laid by an Arminian, Dr. Roger Olsen of Baylor University. Now that is worthy of comment. And while we are at it: Are you saying that man retained his free will in the fall or that his free will is only as free as his nature allows? And if Furman, Mercer, and Manly, were of the persuasion that the will after the Fall was no longer as free as it was in the state of Innocency, and if Luther Rice thought the doctrines of election and predestination ought to and must be preached, and if the Regulars and Separates got together and made the agreement re: the idea of Christ tasting death for every man, where does that leave our present day Traditionalists? And compatiblism will not stand up to well in the light I Jn.4:19. Our problem is that we look in terms of direct cause and effect and forget the often seemingly contradictory ways things can work, like fractels and travel faster than the speed of light and thinking outside the box. The Bible is meant to stretch our intellects, but in order for that to happen we must let it say what it says. Dr. Hankins will be interested to know that he is in agreement with the work on conspiracy written by an insider, namely, Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope, who tells us that the conspirators are pluralists and that they are opposed to determinists, and he specifies the Sovereign Grace founders of our nation as those whom the conspirators oppose. He even provides summaries of the views the folks whom he represents and those whom they oppose.

65 Eric Hankins May 13, 2014 at 12:30 am

Some observations so far:

I’m pretty surprised at how poorly libertarianism is understood by the commenters. I’ve noticed that Calvinists tend to be very, very, well, very sensitive about being misrepresented. Libertarianism is being seriously misrepresented here.

The simple claim of libertarianism is that the power of contrary choice exists. That’s it. It does not demand absolute, unfettered freedom, just the ability to respond or refrain from responding to a mediated set of alternatives. Such a claim forms the basis of, for instance, Plantiga’s freewill defense for the problem of evil. Consistent determinists have no answer for the problem of evil.

Hence, the little question is yet to be answered: If God causes free decisions, why doesn’t He cause all people to choose Him?

I am not arguing against mystery. I am arguing against making theological claims that violate the law of non-contradiction.

66 SVMuschany May 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

As a matter of point Dr. Hankins, it is a bit disingenuous to complain how others are “poorly understanding” your position, when others have leveled the same charge against you. A charge which, to my knowledge, you have not responded to. Granted this is the very key problem in any debate, whether internet/blog based or in person, that is the definition of terms. It would take many pages and many weeks to hash out agreeable definition of terms before we could have a proper debate. The nature of the internet precludes that. That said, to use as a major point of advocacy in support of your view, that others don’t have a “proper understanding” of a certain term when, again, you have been charged with the same condition, is just a bit too much for me to swallow. It is easy to say your opponents just are not properly educated enough to have a debate, it is much harder to actually demonstrate how/why they are wrong. Case-in-point my (and others) observation to the similarities between the classical understanding and points of semi-pelagianism, and the views expressed by some within he SBC “traditionalist” camp. To my knowledge no one has ever demonstrated how those similarities are wrong/different, and rather just made claims of being attacked and tried to end the debate through that.

As for my understanding of libertarian free will, perhaps I am a bit misguided as more of my knowledge of that branch of theology is based more on philosophy and political theory, not exclusively Christian. However dare I say, I believe that my understanding is not misguided and is indeed true. That is to say that libertarianism is strongly incompatablistic. That free will and (any form of) determinism cannot both be true. This takes me back to my earlier point in my recent post. If God has divine and perfect foreknowledge of the future, than even if to a small degree, the future is determined. I will take it further, for God to have effective prophecy, enough to state that anyone claiming to be a prophet of God and yet put forward a prophecy that does not come true, then that person is not a true prophet of God, he has to have perfect knowledge of the future. God is not just a very good guesser, the best chess player ever. If He has sovereign and perfect knowledge of the future, that future is determined.

Within post-augustinian theology the debate then becomes to what degree does he influence the choices that man makes. And thus we have branches of Christianity ranging from Catholicism, to Lutheranism, Methodism, Presbyterianism, and of course Baptists. But all orthodox Christianity, by definition of God’s foreknowledge, have to allow for some degree at least a smidgin of comptaibalism. There has to be some degree of determinism in God’s sovereign will, or He cannot have perfect knowledge of the future.

Again let us take this another path. Could Judas NOT have betrayed Christ? Could Joseph had NOT stayed with Mary and instead sent her away (or worse had her stoned for adultery)? Could the line of David been whipped out before Christ Jesus was born? If you say no, then you have to believe in some measure of determinism. If you say yes, you have to believe that God is not sovereign over the future, nor has perfect knowledge of it.

Again, this is why complete rejection of compatabilism, and faithful adherence to true libertarian free will, is a very dangerous theological stance to take.

67 Ken Hamrick May 13, 2014 at 7:30 am

Dr. Hankins,

You stated:

If God causes free decisions, why doesn’t He cause all people to choose Him?

This is your real problem with God being the ultimate determiner of the destinies of men. If the debate between determinism, centrism and libertarianism is carried out objectively, it will eventually show that God can indeed determine the destinies of men without coercing them or denying them the freedom of contrary choice. And that conclusion will bring us to the deeper objection that you mention here.

If sin had not been allowed into God’s plan—if Adam and Eve had not sinned—then all men would have been elect and under God’s eternal blessings. But in order to allow sin into the plan, God had to also the consequences of sin into the plan. The whole purpose of creating was so that Christ could be incarnated, live a holy life and die as a sacrifice in order to gain a blood-bought people for Himself. Toward this end, sin was a necessary part of God’s plan. However, the justice in God’s nature has more than a relation to individuals as individuals. It also has a relation to the whole race of mankind as a race. While the sins of an individual may be propitiated through Christ’s sacrifice, the sins of the race incur natural consequences that remain on the race until the end. One of those consequences is that God has limited the amount of grace that He brings to bear with the race, such that only a remnant will be saved. When Adam and Eve sinned, the race of mankind was from that moment doomed to perish in the majority. Sin must have such consequences; and this is exactly the picture that God gives us in His dealings with His people in the OT. Time an again, Israel fell into idolatry, and God saved a remnant.

You said,

The simple claim of libertarianism is that the power of contrary choice exists. That’s it. It does not demand absolute, unfettered freedom, just the ability to respond or refrain from responding to a mediated set of alternatives…

I’d like to see you address a real middle position, that “the power of contrary choice exists,” but God uses His powers of soft (non-coercive) influences to successfully persuade His elect without infringing on their freedom. You stated:

I am not arguing against mystery. I am arguing against making theological claims that violate the law of non-contradiction.

We’re still waiting for you to prove that any contradiction exists. Please address the following voices article that argues for an immanent compatibilism wherein God works immanently through the free will choices of men: http://sbcvoices.com/compatibilism-a-more-immanent-grace-by-ken-hamrick/

Thanks!

68 Eric Hankins May 13, 2014 at 9:30 am

Ken,

I read your post that you reference above. I agree with all of the content. It’s just not compatibilism. It’s libertarianism. And I am certain no Calvinist would affirm it. There are several ways to speak of God’s sovereign administration of a world that includes the libertarian freedom of men. I like Molinism; you prefer not to get into the inner workings of all that. Fair enough. If you affirm libertarian freedom, you’re a libertarian.

“I’d like to see you address a real middle position, that “the power of contrary choice exists,” but God uses His powers of soft (non-coercive) influences to successfully persuade His elect without infringing on their freedom.” That’s not what compatibilists believe. That’s not what Dave Miller et al believe. They don’t believe that the power of contrary choice exists.

The contradiction is clear. Miller already admitted to it. God has already determined the “choices” of everyone, yet everyone is still responsible for their choices. God has determined the choices of the reprobate, yet He still “loves” them. It just doesn’t work.

69 SVMuschany May 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Molinism is some of the biggest hogwash theological hoop jumping I have ever seen. The idea that God sees every single possibility of every single choice ever made, and of all the realities of all those choices chooses the one which will best accomplish his will. BUT and here is the tricky part, God STILL CHOOSES a particular reality! He still makes a choice on His foreknowledge! And by making that choice we ALL are locked into a particular determined destiny. And thus the Molinist attempt to deny any aspect of determinism, and yet try to blend God’s sovereignty and human free will falls apart. The simple truth is that we CANNOT do something in our “free will” that God did not know that we were going to do. Again I ask, could Judas NOT have betrayed Christ? Could the line of David had been destroyed before Christ was born? If you believe in true libertarian free will as has been believed since the enlightenment (for that is when this philosophical/theological thought began), then you HAVE to say yes. And when you say yes, you HAVE to come to the conclusion that God CAN NOT have infallible knowledge of the future. If God makes absolutely no deterministic choice regarding the future of humanity, then He is not in control and he is NOT a god, let alone one to be worshiped.

70 Les Prouty May 13, 2014 at 7:47 am

Well we are working on trying to understand. Please be patient with us.

I’d like to put a few quotes into the discussion and see if Dr. John Byl, who has a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of British Columbia, and is the former Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Trinity Western University, Langley, BC. and is an elder in The Canadian Reformed Church, might understand what we are getting at. He writes on free will and particularly libertarian free will,

“By free will we mean the freedom of the will to choose and act of itself, without coercion.”

“We have the freedom to choose either of two different actions with equal ease and out of no necessity. We have the freedom to act contrary to our nature. Our decisions are not fully determined by our character and history. This is called libertarianism.”

“Libertarians contend that our will is genuinely free only if our choosing is not pre-determined by external and internal conditions. They assert that our motives and beliefs may incline us toward a particular choice, but they should not guarantee it.”

And one more for now:

“The evangelical theologian Norman Geisler (1999), for example, contends that human decisions are neither determined nor uncaused but, rather, self-caused. Now, the issue is not whether a human self makes its own decisions, after due deliberation and without external coercion. That much is granted by compatibilists. The issue is whether the circumstances and constitution of the self fully determine its decisions. Will the same self, under the same conditions, always make the same decision? Libertarians answer ‘no’. But then we must ask: what is the decisive factor in making a choice, if not the internal constitution of the self and its external circumstances? What other cause can there be? The inevitable implication of libertarianism is that the self’s decisions are, at least to some extent, uncaused.”

Though we Calvinists on this blog may not be understanding your view, does Dr. Byl have it correctly in view based on the above quotes?

Quotes from “The Divine Challenge: on Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning.”

Thank you Eric in advance brother.

71 William Carpenter May 13, 2014 at 7:57 am

Eric, I cannot speak for everyone on here, but I can assure you that I am aware of what libertarianism means. Now let me summarize my response again:

Your argument in the article above is not about mystery or why God did not cause all people to choose him. Your argument is threefold as I see it.

1) Dave’s “middle” position is in fact determinism. – This is a point that Dave, I, and near about every other person has conceded.

2) There is no middle position between Calvinism and Traditionalism. – As I pointed out, I will concede there no middle ground between determinism and libertarianism. However, there are determinists who do not fall into say Piper’s camp and there are libertarians who do not fall into the Traditionalists’ camp (unless you really want to start claiming Arminians into your camp). Thus there is a middle ground between High Calvinism and Traditionalism, although the adherents will fall onto the determinist side or libertarian side.

3) Determinism is logically incompatible with free will. – This is a claim I reject. Determinism is logically incompatible with libertarian free will. However, you know that determinists do not define free will as libertarian free will. Thus you make the same error in equating free will with libertarianism that Dave made in equating sovereignty with determinism.

72 Les Prouty May 13, 2014 at 8:12 am

Good William.

Particularly, you said, “Determinism is logically incompatible with libertarian free will. However, you know that determinists do not define free will as libertarian free will.”

And that is demonstrated in my quotes above by Byl.

“By free will we mean the freedom of the will to choose and act of itself, without coercion.” Calvinists never contend, at least that I know of, that God coerces our choices.

And Byl again, “Libertarians contend that our will is genuinely free only if our choosing is not pre-determined by external and internal conditions. They assert that our motives and beliefs may incline us toward a particular choice, but they should not guarantee it.” I contend that THIS is what compatiblism is contrasted with.

73 Dale Pugh May 13, 2014 at 7:17 am

I’m really glad that the issue of God’s sovereignty and man’s free is all worked out. I was seriously worried about this there for a while, but now I feel much better.

74 Dale Pugh May 13, 2014 at 7:19 am

“……..man’s free will.” I hate when I’m predestined to make mistakes of my own choice……..

75 Jonathan Marshall May 13, 2014 at 7:43 am

At the risk of being thrown out because I like *those* guys, Dr. Henry Krabbendam, a gracious brother, has written a small book on this topic. Entitled “Sovereignty and Responsibility”, it is truly helpful. You can read it here: http://www.worldevangelicals.org/lausanne/data/resources/Henry%20Krabbendam%20-%20Sovereignty%20and%20Responsibility.pdf

76 Don Johnson May 13, 2014 at 11:24 am

Dr. Hankins,

“Hence, the little question is yet to be answered: If God causes free decisions, why doesn’t He cause all people to choose Him”?

Good point. If God elected people to salvation, then as you state all would chose Him and be saved. The fact that not everyone is saved, shows God does not elect anyone to salvation. To elect some, but not all would violate the character of God and make Him a liar. Both being an impossibility. Again, you make a great point.

77 parsonsmike May 13, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Well sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own minds that we assume that we know all the possible answers so that it is easy to pick out the one we think is right.

i see this many times in debates, and I am sure I have done the same thing.
But what if God in making a world where people had free will of whatever sort [since i do not even think libertarian free will and Calvinistic election ere incompatible which I will try to explain next], and in this world, the best of all possible worlds, in order to save the most people, God had to allow a certain amount to perish?

Or what if in making the very best possible world, that to exclude from making robots, many had to perish so some could be saved?

Remember the point of creation isn’t to save people firstly. Firstly it is to magnify the glory of God.

So then in order for God to get the most glory, He made this present world and with it came billions who would end up in hell.

I am sure Eric, Don, and Rick will concede that God knew those billions would perish in Hell and made the world anyhow, despite that.
Therefore it seems that in creating the world, their destiny was not the top priority.

God’s glory is the top priority for God.

78 parsonsmike May 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Don,
I answered Dr. Hankins question.

God made the world where billions go to hell and he knew it and made it anyway. Thus he accepted it as an irrevocable truth that could not be avoided.

If God could make a world where His glory from it would have exceeded this world, than this world would never have been. So God did not make a world where He causes every one’s free will to accept Him because such a world would be inferior to this world in giving God the most glory.

79 parsonsmike May 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Calvinistic election and Libertarian Free Will are not incompatible.

or…

Why the debate should not be about free will at all.

One gets saved because one has their blinded eyes opened, their deaf ears unstopped, and their hard heart softened. And all to whom that happens trusts and believes on Jesus.

One with LFW who is ignorant of the truth of the Gospel cannot from the heart believe it.
One with compatibilisitic free will who is ignorant of the truth of the Gospel cannot from the heart believe it.

very simple truths.

If one thinks the Gospel is foolish, then from the heart they can not believe it.

Those perishing ALL think the Gospel foolish. And as long as they do, they will continue to be of the perishing.

All those who see the Gospel as the power of God for salvation are saved.

Simple but true.
Free will has nothing to do with it.

Man freely sinned and is condemned. But free will has nothing to do with getting saved.

man has free will [take your pick of which kind] and when he spiritually sees and hears and his heart is softened, he freely, every time, chooses Jesus.

So then it can be said that whosoever calls upon Jesus will be saved.
Because they that call, whosoever that might be, are they for whom God has moved in their life to open eyes, ears and soften heart.

No one going to Hell while on this earth believes the Gospel anything but foolishness. True.

Everyone going to Hell alive on this earth is blinded to the Gospel truth. Everyone. True.

Unless God saves them they stay blind and perishing.

80 Don Johnson May 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Mike,

Just curious, and trying to understand your logic. It’s the god of this world (Satan) who blinds people. True. Does that mean if Satan were taken out of the way everyone would get saved? Do the people now have the ability to freely accept the Gospel? Again, according to what you’ve written, is Satan the only reason people don’t get saved?

81 parsonsmike May 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Don,
It is not just Satan who blinds people.
But he certainly does.
People also blind themselves, see Matthew 13.
And God shuts up people in sin so that they may be saved by faith.

It’s not just blindness for that is only one way to describe it. The Word describes it this way in Ephesians 4:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

Here the unsaved walk n the futility of their mind, they are darkened in understanding and excluded from the life of God due to their ignorance, which comes about due to their hardness of heart. In that state, they can not freely will [no matter which kind of free will you ascribe to] to from their heart believe in Jesus.

God must open their minds from its futility, enlighten their understanding, so that they are no longer ignorant of the truth of the Gospel. But he also must soften their calloused hearts which have been hardened against His Law.

None of these things are done by the free will of man. They are not in the realm of will. But if these things are done, then the man will believe and will come to Christ and be saved.
Yes? yes, for we read in Matthew 13:

Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’

So you ask if Satan is taken away can everyone be saved?
Satan isn’t the problem. The unsaved’s heart is the problem.
This blinding, or hardening is judicial in nature.
We read from Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

When given the choice and sin is the pick, they do so by suppressing the truth and become condemned and without excuse. They have no excuse for their sin because they have free will and the knowledge of right and wrong. They reject God [as we all did once for the first time] and in doing so they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. And as we read in Ephesians they become all the more calloused as they continue to walk in sin.

And as Romans 1 closes out:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

We see that we once had a depraved mind and we were filled with unrighteousness.
Or as Ephesians 2 puts it:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

God gave us over to a depraved mind, one that is futile in spiritual ways of thinking, and our hearts were darkened so that our understanding was blind.

The Scripture says that those who are perishing [those not saved] are in that state. Now, Today. At church on Sunday. In a revival meeting. All the time. Unless God opens their eyes and enlightens their understanding and softens their heart. Until then no matter which kind of free will is true, they can not freely embrace the Gospel.

This is Calvinism or what Calvinism has understood the Bible to be saying.
And i suspect that many in the middle who are not full blown C’s believe it. They may not believe in some tenets of C, but they believe this because it is right there in the Word of God. And nothing in the Word of God contradicts it. Nothing. Nada.

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