An Antinomist’s Perspective on Life in the SBC

by David Rogers on May 10, 2014 · 75 comments

Dave Miller’s post the other day got my mind to working, and conjured up an image that I am going to try to describe to you in this post, which could also be titled “Calvinism, Free Will, and Narnia: Redux,” as it picks up where I left off in another post I once wrote called “Calvinism, Free Will, Narnia, and Christian Unity.” The basic idea in the first post, for those who don’t want to bother going back and reading it now, is that the biblical realities of divine sovereignty (and the set of implications that Calvinists generally claim go along with them) and of human free will (and the set of implications that non-Calvinists generally claim go along with them) correspond, from an antinomist’s perspective, to the two coexisting worlds of Narnia and England as described in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Both sets of realities, though apparently contradictory, coexist, one on one side of the wardrobe, and the other on the other side.

To the degree I understand it (which, admittedly, is not all that great), one side corresponds to the realm of eternity, and the other to the realm of time. The surrounding reality is perceived differently in accordance with the perspective from which it is viewed, i.e. either from the perspective of eternity, or the perspective of time. Both perspectives, though apparently contradictory, are nevertheless true. In a certain sense, the realm of eternity is even more true—though at the same time it is more opaque and harder to correctly perceive, and more likely to get us sidetracked from the things of everyday life that generally ought to occupy our minds and activities on this side of the wardrobe.

In this post, I want to pick up where I left off in the last post, and describe in a similar fashion something of how I understand the on-going debates and discussions in Southern Baptist life over Calvinism, Traditionalism, etc.

Imagine a big room full of Southern Baptists (the illustration works with all Christians as well, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say they are all Southern Baptists). In keeping with our illustration about England and Narnia, this room is located in England—that is, in the realm of time. Situated at a high place along the walls of this room are a series of narrow windows, through which, if one stands on top of a series of tall stools, may be seen a glimpse of Narnia—or, in keeping with our illustration, the realm of eternity.

Since, as humans, we live in time, and will not experience eternity until after we die, it is not possible for us to actually go through the wardrobe and experience Narnia (i.e. eternity) in this life. The only knowledge we have of the existence of Narnia (i.e. eternity) is through the windows, which, in this illustration, correspond to the Word of God—and specifically those portions of the Word of God that describe reality on the other side of the wardrobe. At the same time there are other windows, corresponding to other portions of the Word of God, which are situated at a lower level, and which describe reality in the realm of time. In addition, the view of Narnia from the narrow windows at top of the walls is not all that clear, and the perspective is very limited, especially when compared to what it is when looking from the other side of the wardrobe, in Narnia itself. It is just a glimpse. But it is very beautiful.

In this room there are certain individuals who have climbed to the top of the stools and looked through the narrow windows to the other side. Some of these have been so captivated by the beauty of what they have seen that they stay there on top of the stools and lose interest in the rest of the reality that surrounds them in the room in which they are located. At the same time, there are others in the room who have never climbed to the top of the stools, and who are skeptical about the reality those at the top of the stools say they see. Some of those in this second group get so perturbed by those in the first group continually going on and on about what they see in the windows that they spend their time going around trying to kick their stools out from under them. Some of those in the first group, in addition to staying on their stools and hardly ever looking around to appreciate the reality that surrounds them in the realm of time, begin to kick and spit on those whom they perceive are trying to kick their stools out from under them. At the same time, there are a lot of other people who do not fall into either one of these two groups. In addition, there are lost people who are not even in the room at all, who need to be told about the grace of God, the path of forgiveness, invited into the room, and yes, when the time comes, be given an opportunity to climb to the top of the stools themselves and peer over into Narnia (i.e. eternity).

From the antinomist’s perspective, both sets of reality exist. And it is not a bad thing, in and of itself, to climb to the top of the stools every now and then and peer over into Narnia, provided we don’t get stuck there, and provided we don’t look down on and belittle those who still haven’t climbed the stools and looked through the windows at the top of the walls to the other side.

And, for heaven’s sake (and I mean that literally), let’s quit spending our time and energy trying to kick people’s stools out from underneath them, or spitting at or kicking those whom we sense are trying to kick our stools out from underneath us. There is work to be done and lost souls to be won. And we all need each other.

 

1 dr. james willingham May 10, 2014 at 8:05 pm

While I am sure that the fellow who has had the stool kicked out from under him does not enjoy hanging by his finger nails, the other folks seem to have a vindictive sort of joy at leaving him hanging. There is something pathological about such joy, and it hardly comports with the Christian Faith. It is interesting to note that my ordaining pastor called himself a supralapsarian hyper Calvinist who also believed in free will. After all the will is free to do whatever one’s nature dictates so long as it does not transgress other important laws, like the law of gravity. I can believe all I want that I won’t fall, but if I step off a tall building we all know what will happen.

However, there is a factor to be noted and that is that under a paradoxical understanding, the opposite can trigger a reverse effect. Sort of like telling a teenager he can’t do thus and so, and he will do it just to prove how wrong we are. Speaking from experience long ago, of course,

2 parsonsmike May 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm

David,
Recently, I have come to understand more about the two perspectives you right.
Although in a slightly different way, I seek the same understanding about atonement. In that God knows and has always seen who will be atoned by the blood of Jesus. he knew when he created. He knew when He sent His Son into the world, and He knows yet today.

Thus in one way we can all agree that from God’s perspective the atonement, or the atoning work of Jesus is fixed and limited. His foreknowledge is infallible.

One, using your terms, might call that the Narnia perspective.

But there is the England perspective as well. WE, and by that I mean Trads, C’s and all in between, do not know ho, how many and when, like God does. We witness the Gospel and all might be saved, or some, or none. We send out the call to all, each of us proclaiming that their is salvation in Jesus for all who will put their trust and faith in Him.
To us, the Gospel call is not limited but general.

The old way of looking at it also reflects the two ways:\
As we go to enter the gates of Heaven, we read: whosoever will. That is the England way or perspective.\\After we pass through and are in ‘Narnia’, we read the sign over the gates: chosen from before the foundation of the world. That is God’s perspective.

But from

3 Tarheel May 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm

About two years ago  I and several pastor friends met for our weekly lunch accountability time.   These gatherings, which sometimes included up to four other pastors,  often ended up lasting several hours and were filled with much more talking and encouraging than eating.  (though we did kill more than a little sweet tea). 

The discussion on this day turned to the doctrine of election (I was preaching through Romans and I’d often bounce my thoughts off these other men) and One of them said something that stuck with me.   He said that so often in the debates surrounding these issues we hang our arguments on the wrong side of the door of salvation.   My interest was piqued so I asked what he meant by that, and he shared that he’d heard/read something that had helped him  shape his predestination/election/ human will  understanding.   

“Inscribed above this side of the door of salvation God has written the words ‘whosoever will may come and enter,’ and those who choose to follow Christ do so because they are drawn by the Spirit and they want to – While above the eternity side of the door the following words are written ‘welcome those whom I chose, called, and elected before the foundation of the world’ which causes those who were appointed to eternal life to rejoice at the amazing grace granted them by God.” (of course, despite quotation marks, this quote is relayed by memory)

I actually think that’s pretty good. 

No where in NT scripture did the apostles ever say or record sermon or a “call” where they said “if you are elect, come to Jesus.”.    But they sure did, under divine inpiration, on multiple occasions, articulate that those who did come did so because they were drawn, were appointed, and were yes – predestined to salvation.    At the same time no one is seen being compelled kicking and screaming to salvation….they came because they truly wanted and, yes, chose to.  Human will and divine predestination somehow coexist in salvation (with neither excluding the other).  

I believe scripture teaches that those who are saved truly choose to believe on Christ because they are truly predestined by God unto salvation.   I’m truly comfortable with that “tension” because like with other doctrinal positions that I can’t logically grasp, I’m bound by the scriptures teachings and I’m grateful to my friend for helping me see that I don’t have to resolve the tension to embrace it. 

David R. & Dave M. You’ve been helpful too. Thanks. 
 

4 Tarheel May 10, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Lol….parsonMike….we relayed the same illustration. Lol.

5 David Rogers May 10, 2014 at 9:30 pm

It’s a good one, though, and I think captures fairly well the idea I am trying to describe.

6 parsonsmike May 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Tarheel,
You know what they say…

“Great minds think alike!”

Sometimes we do as well (-:

7 Dan Barnes May 10, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Sounds like wovenism, a great deal.

8 David Rogers May 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Yep

9 volfan007 May 11, 2014 at 12:39 am

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6….whew…okay. Don’t get into this discussion. Okay, I’m good, now.

BTW, I’ve been preaching thru Romans for many, many moons at my Church…on Sunday mornings….I’m in Romans 8 at the present time….

DAvid :)

10 Tarheel May 11, 2014 at 6:36 am

Lol. :-)

11 dr. james willingham May 11, 2014 at 8:37 am

I followed through on each of the five points of Tulip, plus the points of predestination and reprobation, as far as I could go, chasing the ideas down the labyrinthine ways of Divine thought, wondering how does one preach these truths, if they are truly biblical? That they are biblical, I have no doubt. It is in how do they relate to evangelism and missions that set me to wondering, especially as I had found in church history that the so-called Calvinists were usually first and Johnny on the spot to evangelize and spread the Gospel. Now all of this is contrary to some, who believe, supposedly, in the same truths, but they set down and let the Lord do it all.

It was a great help to stumble across the idea that Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage. I took that idea and began to apply it to all the other points, asking this question: “Are these truths preached evangelistically in the New Testament?” The answers that I found in Mt.15:21-28 & Lk.4:15-31 are yes and yes and yes, etc. They seem to work in the way that paradoxes do. Counselors trained in that area devise paradoxes to bring home to the needy person an apparent contradiction as the thing needed to bring about a change. Our Lord asks for a free will embracing of each of the doctrines, and it is the sinners who have done deeply into sin who find the greatest encouragement to respond to the Gospel in which many do not even think is Gospel. Truth be told: a drowning man cares for nothing but getting hold of that rope or having the fellow who is letting him go down for the third time get hold of him, to pull him to safety. Every one has heard of Edwards’ Sinners in The Hands of An Angry God, but who has heard of his Pressing into the Kingdom? Or who has read where Whitefield stopped to weep for sinners in the midst of a sermon, when they could not weep for themselves.

By the way, a friend of mine was descended from a lady who had two sons, all three were converted under George Whitefield. My friend was a graduate of Fruitland, and his wife was the daughter of another Sovereign Grace preacher. Ben Franklin noted how the world grew religious after Whitefield preached in Philadelphia (during that time, Franklin made his famous method indicating that Whitefield could have been heard by 30,000 as was reported in Scotland.). O and one of the sons of the lady above was a follower of French Infidelity, the skepticism of that day, developed by Voltaire and an Scotchman, David Hume. Whitefield’s labors resulted in so many having so much in faith in common that it was one of the factors in the uniting of the colonies during the Revolution. And did you all know that every one of the majors in the Continental Army, with the exception of one, were Presbyterian elders. The cannon fodder were the Baptists. They never did things the easy way. God bless, all of you, and especially your mothers, if they are living, on this Mother’s Day. Mine has been gone nearly 42 years (will be on Oct. 29).

12 David Williams May 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

I fall into the traditionalist camp – I believe man has both the opportunity and responsibility to accept God’s call of salvation. My choice to accept or reject that offer of salvation (faith in Christ’s work) determines my eternal destiny. I did not seek God, He sought me.

I believe the Bible teaches plainly and clearly that we must accept God’s offer of salvation – an offer made available to all, from a God who sent His Son to die a death sufficient for all.

I look back and see that God chose Israel, but that not all of the ‘chosen’ believed or submitted and a great many died, lost in sin. We have a better, a superior, calling and woe to those who do not heed that call.

13 Braxton Hunter May 11, 2014 at 9:06 am

It is not my desire to kick the stool from underneath any of you, my brothers. I believe that you are genuinely trying (as we all are) to grapple with these issues. Nevertheless, I am greatly troubled by the recent affirmation in Miller’s article (and now this one) that believers must just affirm contradictions. I’m not overstating (i don’t think) what Miller said in his article and since this one seeks to move Miller’s idea forward it bears the same burden. I’m glad that Calvinists here (and I’m not saying this sarcastically) are willing to call it what it is, though. The conclusions of Calvinism do not imply mysteries or paradoxes but contradictions (both explicit and implicit). Thank you gentelmen for gritting your teeth and accepting this. Yet, there is nothing contradictory in scripture nor can there be. The examples given all fail. The trinity is mysterious but not contradictory. The same is true of the dual nature of Christ. And there is certainly nothing contradictory about the existence of heaven and the existence of this present earthly world. For that matter, there is nothing obviously contradictory about the existence of the fictitious world of Narnia, and the actual world. But if there are contradictions in the calvinistic system I cautiously say that it is more possible for Narnia to exist than Calvinism to be true, because we cannot, must not and should not ever affirm contradictions. I appreciate the discussions that take place here, and rarely post, but this recent development has coaxed me out. Compatibilism (though it leads to implicit contradictions itself) was certainly posited as an attempt to avoid the contradiction of libertarian freedom and determinism both being asserted. What I call “theoretical theism,” can be fun over a cup of coffee, but when we get to the point of affirming contradictions in the eyes of atheists on a blog I think we need to show a bit more responsibility before posting. I love you, my brothers and pray that you do not take this in any other spirit than that of love and concern.

14 Mike Leake (@mikeleake) May 11, 2014 at 9:37 am

I don’t know that either Dave or David have said we must affirm contradictions. A paradox is an APPARENT contradiction, but in reality is logically consistent. It is an apparent contradiction that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Yet we happily affirm this because it is what Scripture teaches. And if one tried to counter and say that he is 100% God-man then you’ve just affirmed heresy.

What these brothers are saying is that God is way smarter than us. The Scriptures do not contradict but there are places where if one really let’s the text speak there will be apparent contradictions. Only God knows how certain truths really fit together.

15 Jim G. May 11, 2014 at 11:47 am

Mike,

a paradox is a not an apparent contradiction; it is a statement that implies its own negation. The simplest paradox is the following:

“This sentence is false.”

If the sentence is true, then by its own admission it is false. If it is false, then by its own admission it is true. That is a paradox. Paradoxes always operate like thus: If T then F and if F then T.

The Trinity and the incarnation are neither contradictory nor paradoxical. They are mysterious. On the other hand, meticulous determinism and genuine human freedom are incompatible.

Jim G.

16 Mike Leake May 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I’m just going by the dictionary definition:

a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

And isn’t there a difference between a logical paradox and a philosophical paradox?

17 Dave Miller May 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm

The term antinomy was taken from philosophy (where it was used with a particular meaning) and brought into theology where it has a slightly different meaning.

The antinomy is that which can only be explained in the intelligence of God, not by human reason.

Issues related to sovereignty and human will are every bit as much antinomy as the Trinity or the nature of Christ.

18 Dave Miller May 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

If the terms paradox or antinomy bother someone, I’ll make up a term.

Parschnicklism.

Parshnicklism is the idea that some things are solved only in the intellect of God and not by human reason, where they appear logically contradictory.

I’m a parschnicklist.

19 Jim G. May 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi Dave,

I respectfully disagree. The Trinity and the hypostatic union are not logic puzzles. They are mysterious, not contradictory or paradoxical. That God is three distinct persons, each of which fully and completely God and together constituting his one being is not illogical; it is beyond logic. That God the Son would enflesh himself as Jesus of Nazareth and remain eternally so is not against logic. Thomas Morris wrote a book (“The Logic of God Incarnate”) about the logical consistency of the incarnation. It’s a tough, but convincing (in that in 20 years, no one can refute him) read.

In my opinion, the sovereignty-responsibility balance IS contradictory when begun with deterministic assumptions. Without deterministic assumptions, it is mysterious, but not contradictory. But, again, that is my opinion.

Jim G.

20 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 10:11 am

Braxton,

I appreciate your comment and the spirit in which I sense it is offered. I do not sense you to be trying to kick the stool out from under me. Indeed, it shows for me you have read well and wrestled with the implications of what I am saying; and I am honored by that.

As Mike (above) states, my model is not about actual, but rather apparent contradictions. The operative element is the difference between time and eternity. The concept of timeless eternity is one that has, perhaps, philosophical, metaphysical, and scientific implications that are beyond my pay-grade to understand or explain. But it seems to me that things that are true in the realm of time, when viewed from another lens (or prism), such as that of timeless eternity, may appear different and even contradictory.

My hope is that this is not a stumbling block to sincere atheists and/or seekers in general, but rather a helpful proposition. I will, however, keep in mind the potential for harm that dealing superficially with these matters might cause.

Blessings.

21 Dave Miller May 11, 2014 at 11:32 am

Braxton, you did not accurately represent what I said.

Let me try to summarize.

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours. I infer from that there is a divine intelligence greater than ours.

I believe that there are contradictions based on the weakness of HUMAN logic, but that in the divine thought that is higher than ours, these contradictions are solved.

It is not that God or the Word is contradictory, but that human beings cannot understand all there is to know about God.

22 Greg Harvey May 11, 2014 at 10:08 am

I think that you also might mention that some hucksters covered some of the windows with Miracle Glass that they claim helps you see better but you have to adopt their speculative theology variant for it to work…

23 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 10:44 am

Touché.

24 Johnathan Pritchett May 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm

“I believe that there are contradictions based on the weakness of HUMAN logic, but that in the divine thought that is higher than ours, these contradictions are solved.”

There may be such a thing as human reasoning, but there is no such thing as “HUMAN Logic.” Logic is logical because logic is grounded in the active eternal intelligence of an omniscient being.

There may be mysteries that God has resolved that we haven’t (certainly the easily understandable word to ancient, illiterate peasants has far fewer than we posit though) but there is never contradictions, and should never be entertained that there could be. That is like saying square circles and married bachelors exist. Worse, it is like saying God does an does not exist.

There is no such rhing as human logic, just faulty logic. If theology leads to contradictions, it is faulty logic and bad theology.

The logically false or contradictory can not possibly be biblically true.

Even the careful Reformed presuppositionalist and theologian would reject this idea of “human logic” am contradictions, and probably e a lot more a a lot more rude in correction to boot. :)

25 Braxton Hunter May 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Gentlemen, I am certainly glad to hear that we do not have Baptists on this blog that believe we should affirm contradictions. The last thing I want to do is kick a stool out from beneath a straw man. Nevertheless, David, you said, “An antinomy is something that is against the laws of logic – a logical contradiction.” You then went on to say (and this post echos the sentiment) that on the trinity and nature of Christ there are logical contradictions on human logic. First, if you don’t want to affirm contradictions then please go out of your way not to sound as though you are doing so. I study these things relentlessly and I genuinely took you to mean contradictions can be true. Second, as Johnathan points out, it is meaningless to make a distinction between “human” and “divine” logic. There is good logic and bad logic. What it sounds like you mean to say is the limits of human knowledge vs. God’s knowledge. BTW, a paradox is something that appears to be a contradiction until you have all the answers – “I was crucified with Christ yet I live.” That sounds contradictory until you clarify what you mean. A mystery is like the Trinity – there is one God and three persons. No contradiction present. As others have pointed out, 1 God and 3 Gods would be a contradiction. 1 person who is 3 persons would be a contradiction. 1 God and 3 persons is not a contradiction, but a mystery. We don’t have all the info but there is no contradiction. This is why it is important not to say Jesus was 100% God and 100% man since that would be a flat explicit contradiction. He had/has a fully human nature and a fully divine nature. This stuff is tricky, but we have to be responsible and clear in how we convey our thoughts in a public forum like this. I dont intend to be condescending. I think you guys are all Christian thinkers and I’m glad for that, I’m just giving a word of caution to my brothers on both sides.

26 Tarheel May 11, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I don’t think the human will/predestination mystery is a contradiction. I’ve not said that it was….I’ve said that how these coexist, or are compatiable, is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. I’ve said there’s tension in the text, but I do not believe it’s a contradiction.

I’ve said I am comfortable not fully grasping that which I, bound by scripture, faithfully embrace.

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

27 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Jonathan & Braxton,

I am curious about how you respond to my theoretical x-factor of the two different perspectives of time and of timeless eternity causing what is ultimately not contradictory to appear from our time-based perspective as if it were contradictory. Since timelessness, as I understand it, cannot be scientifically measured, it seems reasonable to me there may well be realities in the timeless realm that cannot be logically accounted for when considered exclusively from the perspective of the realm of time.

28 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm

For example, the whole question of what comes first, faith or regeneration, is largely irrelevant, if you take time out of the equation, is it not?

29 Les Prouty May 11, 2014 at 5:32 pm

This is a good reminder brothers as we argue/discuss philosophical terminology.

“Charles Simeon’s account of his conversation with John Wesley on December 20, 1784 (the date is given in Wesley’s Journal):

“Sir, I understand that you are called an
Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist;
and therefore I suppose we are to draw
daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat,
with your permission I will ask you a few questions…
Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved
creature, so depraved that you would never have
thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it
into your heart?”

“Yes,” says the veteran, “I do indeed.”

“And do you utterly despair of recommending
yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for
salvation solely through the blood and righteousness
of Christ?”

“Yes, solely through Christ.”

“But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by
Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself
afterwards by your own works?”

“No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.”

“Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the
grace of God, are you not in some way or other to
keep yourself by your own power?”

“No.”

“What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and
every moment by God, as much as an infant in its
mother’s arms?”

“Yes, altogether.”

“And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of
God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?”

“Yes, I have no hope but in Him.”

“Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger
again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my
election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance:
it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it.”

Are the differences really differences after all?

30 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 5:42 pm

That ‘s good, Les. Thanks for sharing.

31 Tarheel May 11, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Great stuff, Les!

32 Braxton Hunter May 11, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Time is an aspect of the created order and is codependant with matter and space. Moreover, in order for things to happen at all, you need time. Outside of creation (or before the creation of the universe if you like – all though it isn’t quite right to say “before” since it is a temporal term) there was no time. God existed and was changeless in the strictest sense. Thus, I do not believe that heaven will be “timeless” in that sense. It is however right to say ” when time shall be no more,” or “in eternity to come” if one means that figuratively (i.e. this earthly time has come and gone and our future will be everlasting). But there will necessarily still be time or else nothing will be able to happen. I’m not sure how this understanding of time impacts your system because I’m not certain what you are positing.

33 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Since God is not limited by the constraints of time, it seems to me that His perspective is different than ours. Thus, realities that for Him have existed from “before” the foundation of the world, from a human perspective may be actualized at a certain date and time. And realities which from our perspective have a certain cause-effect relationship (e.g. the ordo salutis), from God’s perspective may not necessarily have the same cause-effect relationship, since cause and effect are to a large extent a function of time. In the age to come (another time-based term, from which we cannot in our humanity escape), it seems to me that perhaps the New Jerusalem, which exists now in the realm of eternity, will come to earth and meet and merge with the realm of time, creating a new reality we cannot fully describe from our present (another time-based term) perspective. Since I have not experienced any of this for myself, I freely admit that much of this is speculative. But it does appear to me to open up a viable alternative to the traditional impasse between divine sovereignty and human free will.

34 Johnathan Pritchett May 12, 2014 at 10:12 am

Assuming B-theory, it would still be the case, and Scripture demonstrates this, that God’s interaction happens in time. When God says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,” God did not eternally do it. He did it in time, as all his interactions are described in Scripture.

If God said that to Moses from eternity, then he would be saying that eternally to Moses. But Moses isn’t eternally existent, nor is heaven, as it is a created thing. There is no timeless existence, again, assuming B-Theory, that created things can occupy. If B-theory is correct, and God remains outside of time eternally, then only he can do so. But he doesn’t interact from the his occupation in eternity. God breaks into time and space to interact with his creation. That is what the Bible always says, and never suggests otherwise.

It makes zero sense to say God is eternally speaking to Moses when God did not speak to Moses all the time. If God’s interactions with persons are outside of time, which the Bible nowhere affirms, that would mean, for example, that God is eternally speaking to Moses and not eternally speaking to Moses, which is a contradiction.

There is no impasse between divine sovereignty and human free will. This is a common category error and false juxtaposition. Sovereignty pertains to status of authoritative rule, and free will pertains to volition.

The word sovereignty does not mean, entail, nor imply determinism. The real contrast is between determinism and free will, and that pertains to the type of creation we occupy. Is it a deterministic one, or not. That is the only valid juxtaposition.

To insist that the word sovereignty entails determinism is to make words meaningless, unable to convey meaning, and we should all embrace relativism. Since that is not acceptable, we should not make words mean things they do not, otherwise, we have no argument against gay marriage and what the word marriage actually means, entails, and implies.

35 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 10:32 am

And to think Calvinists are often accused of using logic and making academic arguments too much…. ;-)

36 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:07 am

Jonathan,

I was not familiar with the term “B-theory,” so I Googled it and read the Wikipedia article. I notice there are a lot of other articles about it. This appears to be way over my head right now, and more than I have the time to delve into and bring myself up to speed, at present. That being said, based on the extremely surface understanding I gained from reading the Wikepedia article, I am not so sure what I am proposing is the same thing as B-theory. I admit there are certain similarities. But what I am saying is that God, being transcendent, experiences reality in a way differently than we as humans do. While some may find it interesting to try to describe in philosophical terms what this may look like, I have a strong hunch that it is something that ultimately defies human description.

My main point is that, when I read Scripture, I find certain portions that appear to validate a Calvinist perspective of soteriology and others that appear to validate a non-Calvinist perspective. Admittedly, I may be interpreting some of these wrongly. And I am open to being shown where this is the case. But, frankly, I don’t have a whole lot of interest in debating this. There are other points of theology that I will admit to having more of an interest in debating. But, for some reason, I never have quite caught on as to why this particular one garners so much interest and attention.

Also, when I use the word “sovereignty” here, I am using it as a catch-phrase to include all the things that Calvinists traditionally associate with their particular view of soteriology. That being said, I am aware that the term “Calvinist” also needs some specification to assure we are using it the same way, as well. All in all, though, I am not talking about technical understandings of these terms here, but rather more general categories.

I am not really even trying to convince you or anyone else why my antinomist views with regard to all this are right, and yours are wrong. From my perspective, the views of practically everyone in the Southern Baptist debates on this subject fall within the realm of essential orthodoxy, and so it is not that big of a deal to me what you believe on this, as long as you are not trying to force everyone else to believe the same thing as a requirement for full cooperation. What this post about, as the title suggests, is simply a commentary, from my perspective as an antinomist, on our interaction with one another related to this issue in the SBC.

37 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 10:33 am

I wonder what starting point you Johnathan and others are beginning from respective to God’s sovereignty. And I do understand the use of sovereignty in common usage respecting free will. I would actually juxtapose man’s will, libertarian free or not, with God’s eternal decree. Would that work in your opinions? i.e. Has God decreed all things as the WCF says? “I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;”

Thus in Ehpesians 1:
“7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined ***according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,***

In your and Braxton’s view, what does it mean when Paul writes ***according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,***

Thanks brothers.

38 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 11:03 am

Les,

Jonah would be an example. God’s will was for Jonah to go to Nineveh, but it wasn’t Jonah’s. So God had a storm and a whale show up at just the right time. Which seemed to “gently” persuade Jonah to do what God wanted done. There’s a big difference between working all things and decreeing all things.

39 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:07 am

Thanks Don. I guess what I would ask next is this: Is it possible that Jonah could have refused to go and carried through with his refusal and not ever gone? i.e could Jonah have thwarted God’s will that Jonah go to Nineveh?

And I’m not really interested as to whether God would have sent someone else. That’s another question. Could Jonah have never gone?

40 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:16 am

Just for the sake of conversation, I will throw out my antinomist answer to this question–which is what the post is sort of about, anyway, right?

From a time-based, human, earthly perspective, the answer is yes, he could have chosen to disobey and not go to Nineveh. From a divine, timeless, heavenly perspective, no, he could not have chosen to do so. And these two answers, though they may well appear to be so, are not ultimately contradictory.

41 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:18 am

I will add one more thing. I am not so convinced that our ability to answer this question correctly is something that God has deemed all that important for us to be able to do.

42 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:22 am

David, I agree in a sense. And I share your antinomy view al la Packer on divine sovereignty/human responsibility. But still, based on what the scriptures appear to say (e.g. Eph. 1:11) what does the decree of God mean? It seems to me that once that is agreed upon (and actually that’s one of the major areas of disagreement in my view) then how do human actions function under that divine decree.

43 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:25 am

From my point of view, I think it is important to read and believe passages such as Eph. 1:11, and that there is both blessing and benefit for us as Christians in doing so. I am not so sure that we are expected to philosophically analyze the implications behind what it says.

44 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

David, I understand and you and I have agreed that some of this is ultimately mysterious. But when we read Ephesians saying God “predestined ***according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,***” we should/need to try and understand what it means and be able to apply it to other scriptures and then for our people. i.e. does “all” mean “all?” What is meant by “predestined?” Etc.

45 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

As I understand it, “all” means “all,” and “predestined” means “predestined.” I believe this verse is an important “window” into the divine perspective I describe in my post, and I accept it just as it reads in plain language. But there are also other ways of looking at and explaining how and why the things that happen on earth happen the way they do.

46 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:38 am

Another way of saying what I am trying to say in much of this is I have little problem “affirming” most everything both Calvinists and Traditionalists (and those in-between) “affirm” about the issues up for debate. Where I don’t go along with either side is in “denying” everything they “deny.”

47 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:18 am

David, I think from each perspective that is right. But to stay in the “decree of God” line of thinking, and not Jonah’s perspective, could it ever possibly happened any other way?

48 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:22 am

From that perspective, no. But that is not the only perspective from which to accurately look at this question.

49 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:25 am

“But that is not the only perspective from which to accurately look at this question.”

Agree. But it seems to me to be the starting point. Start with God and then how does man operate in light of His decree. That’s my other comment’s point and why I’m asking Johnathan and others what their starting point is.

50 David Rogers May 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

I’m not saying you are necessarily wrong about this. You may well be right. But I do not grasp why it is so crucial to identify a “starting point” on this question. Maybe that is a question we ourselves are introducing into what God wants us to know that is making it more complicated than it needs to be. Perhaps I am not quite getting what you are asking, though.

51 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:34 am

Well, why I’m asking is that it really is connected to what the post is about and the ensuing commits, philosophy brought into it etc.

The debate continues over determinism/libertarian free will or compatiblism etc. I’m just asking if there is a prior (to the free will question) controlling truth.

Maybe an example from another theological area. We all agree that God does not/cannot change. That is a prior theological truth we all agree on. So when we encounter a passage that says God “relented” or “repented” or “changed his mind,” whatever it means, it cannot mean God changed.

I don’t know. Just trying t better understand all this.

52 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

Les,

Yes, he could have refused.

53 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

Judas, for example – did what he wanted to do – yet was predestined to betray Christ.

Peter denied Christ because he chose and and wanted to, but it too was foreodained.

In fact, Jesus told both of them they’d do it beforehand.

Could they have not done it? If they’d not… Wouldn’t that have made Jesus “wrong”?

It seems to me that both bible believing Calvinists and bible believing non Calvinists embrace determinism to some degree.

The Acts passage concerning those who killed Christ because they wanted to and were yet acting in accord with the “definite and preordained” plan of God also comes to mind.

54 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:14 am

Don,

Maybe a better example of what I’m talking about is in Genesis 50 about Joseph. The passage says,

“15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

Now as I read this, it’s apparent that it was God’s will for Joseph to have done to him what his brothers did to him. And the brothers were not sitting around thinking, “Ok, God wants us to seek Joseph into slavery so he can rise up thru the ranks and someday take care of God’s people.” No. Thye were intending evil. Their intentions were evil, not seeking to carry out God’s will for Joseph.

So, could the brothers have done otherwise? That’s essentially what I’m asking regarding the decree of God.

55 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 11:27 am

Les,

Yes.

56 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 11:48 am

Don,

ok. Could all of the specificities of all the OT Messianic prophecies have happened otherwise? For example:

“But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (John 19:33-37 ESV)

Was it ever a possibility that the soldier would NOT pierce Jesus’ side thereby negating the OT prophecies of the events?

57 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

Or for that matter could they have broken Jesus” legs?

58 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 11:59 am

Les,

No.

On a separate note. In your text of John 19 it says “that you also may believe.” Who was John addressing when he said “you – ye”? I don’t want to sidetrack blog. It’s just some food for thought.

59 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Don,

You answered “no.” So where was their libertarian free will? Did they not have libertarian free will?

And not here and now on who John was addressing. That would not be germane to the subject of the post.

60 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Les, We believe that human will and divine predestination are mysteriously compatible. They (well Don and Maybe a few others) obviously don’t. We are accused of favoring divine will to the exclusion human will when in actuality we’ve argued that that both mysteriously coexist…but they are arguing human will trumps divine will. That divine will is somehow “floating” in search of human direction.

In furtherance, its even even been argued on this blog that Jesus himself had the “free will” to at any point reject the cross….throwing on it’s ear all the OT prophecies he came to fulfill. Not to mention leaving all humanity with no possible way to salvation as He was and is the only way. (acts 4:12)

This is pointless. Don and those few who are on the extreme with him seem to not be at all interested in unity or common ground – only victory. With victory apparently being defined as all calvinists silenced or gone altogether.

He represents a very, very small minority, I think, I hope.

61 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Les,

Yes, they did. That’s why Christ came in “the fullness of time” Gal. 4:4. The right people were in the right places. One of the problems with Calvinism is they make God to weak. They reason the soldier pierced His side was because He made him do it. I believe God knew who would and who would not have pierced His side. therefore He “worked all things after the counsel of His own will.” It takes a much bigger God who knows what will happen and work around it to accomplish His desires than to force one to His will. God didn’t cause Joseph’s brothers to hate him (which proves they were unregenerate, but we won’t go there. However, God used there hatred to spare much people.

62 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

The right people in the right places? Really?

So God KNOWS what they will do? That argument ends up at the same place as determinism unless you deny the infallibility of Gods knowledge.

Do you?

63 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Don,

First you mischaracterize Calvinist theology. We do not teach that God MADE him pierce Jesus” side. And we do not teach that God MADE Joseph’s brothers hate him. The whole point we are trying to make is that God has decreed all things and certainly knows all things that will happen. Also true is that man acts according to his nature. God uses His foreknown and decreed knowledge to ensure that man’s actions accomplish His perfect will and He does so perfectly. Thus God is well, God and man is responsible for his sin (like Joseph’s brothers are responsible) even when carrying out God’s perfect plan. Compatible are the true truths. God doesn’t need to cause them to sin, the soldier or the brothers. But mysterious for sure.

Let me ask you. Was God hoping, hoping, hoping that the solder or someone would pierce Jesus’ side…not knowing for sure if someone’s libertarian free will would come through for Him? And then went as it were, “Whew! Glad that worked out?”

64 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Les,

I asked this before and I don’t remember if it was answered. If God’s “decreed” will is always accomplished why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem? Were they tears of joy?

65 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Don,

Compassion.

66 Don Johnson May 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Les,

Did He forget that He decreed them to reject Him?

I’m sure its happened before and maybe a number of times, but this is first time that I can recall a Calvinist using the word compassion. Again, maybe you and others use it a lot and I just don’t catch it.

67 Les Prouty May 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Don, I’ve used it often as do many other Calvinists. To answer your question, again scripture is our friend. God takes no pleasure i the death of the wicked. He also decreed that death would actually happen, unless one supposes he was caught off guard with that one too. He surely knew that Lazarus was going to die. Yet Jesus still wept.

68 Christiane May 12, 2014 at 7:34 pm

once again,
knowing ahead of time that something will occur is NOT the same thing as causing it to occur

69 Tarheel May 12, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Don,

So now Calvinists don’t believe in compassion?!

Dude, just stop. Please.

70 Les Prouty May 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Christiane,

You said, “knowing ahead of time that something will occur is NOT the same thing as causing it to occur.”

I don’t think I nor anyone else has said that God’s knowledge of a certain event means that God causes that even to happen. Example: God knew with certainty that his son would be crucified. But God the father didn’t cause that to happen. Evil men caused that to happen. But it was certain to happen nonetheless.

71 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Here is an interesting image that somewhat illustrates what I am trying to say:

http://media-cache-cd0.pinimg.com/originals/1d/04/14/1d041425cc777267e07b7f3db55f40f7.jpg

72 Dave Miller May 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Interesting.

73 Les Prouty May 11, 2014 at 10:55 pm

The dilemma, or *apparent* dilemma, of divine sovereignty and human responsibility is as I have said before an antinomy in the sense such as defined by JI Packer in his excellent book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. And this is what I took both Dave and David to be getting at.

“What is an “antinomy”? The Shorter Oxford Dictionary
defines it as
“a contradiction between conclusions
which seem equally logical, reasonable,
or necessary.”
For our purposes, however, this definition is not
quite accurate; the opening words should read “an
appearance of contradiction.” For the whole point of
an antinomy¾in theology, at any rate¾is that it is
not a real contradiction, though it looks like one. It is
an apparent incompatibility between two apparent
truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles
stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both
undeniable. There are cogent reasons for believing
each of them; each rests on clear and solid evidence;
but it is a mystery to you how they can be squared
with each other. You see that each must be true on its
own, but you do not see how they can both be true
together.”

Here is but one example:

“In Exodus 7:2-4 God says to Moses:

“You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh will not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt, and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments.”

In verse 2 Moses and Aaron are tad to command Pharaoh to let Israel go. But in verse 3 God says he will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will not let them go. Then God says he will judge Pharaoh and Egypt for not letting them go.

According to God there is no dilemma in what he is doing because we know all he does is right and just.

Fully understand this? Nope. True right there in the word? Yep. We have to live with these two truths that SEEM irreconcilable.

74 David Rogers May 11, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I read Packer’s book once upon a time, but had forgotten that part of it. But I imagine the original seed of what I now think regarding all of this may well have originally been planted in my brain from what I read back then.

75 dr. james willingham May 12, 2014 at 11:56 am

Antinomy or paradox, the same phenomenon is seen from different perspectives. I appreciated Brother Roger’s perspective link. Like Dave Miller said, “Interesting.” Actually, thinking outside the box is what we are talking about, something we really need to learn in order to appreciate the advance in knowledge, understanding, and profundity of wisdom being given to us in the spiritual realm. God does not do as we do; He does not usually conceal what He is going to do or what He plans, in one respect. On the contrary, He lets it all hang out and does the opposite of what we expect. Consider how the Lord said, Esau have I hated. But then ask yourself this question: How did God treat Esau, the man whom He said He hated? And consider Jacob whom He loved: How did He treat Jacob. It is the treatment of both that throw unusual reflections on the choice on God’s part to love and hate. John Gill had an interesting comment about such matters. He stated: “God treats the wicked so well that no one in his right mind would condemn God for sending them to Hell.” This is involves the further issue: How do the wicked respond to such good treatment? And the beloveds: How do they respond to what seems such ill treatment? Well, they do get upset at times and say things not too wise or good. Jeremiah is a case in point: God “you have deceived me, and I was deceived.”(Jer.20:7). And: “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will you be altogether unto me as a liar and as waters that fail?”(Jer.15:18). None of this is easy and simple except for the fact that God has left us a challenge, one that will stretch our brains, enlarge our hearts, and expand our spirits. Consider how Job’s friend, Bildad, declared “the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.”(Job 8:13). A truth, but a strange one, nevertheless. Why? Because Bildad was the hypocrite in seeking to defend God from the accusations as he understood them in chapter 8. And it was Bildad’s hope that perished in an instance, when God said to Eliphaz, Job.42:7, “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against your two friends: for you have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has.” Yes, the hypocrite’s hope perish, but that was a good thing and the reason why I titled a sermon on Job 8:13, “Hooray!” Why? Why was it a good thing, when the man’s hope perished? Because he got a new and better hope, one based upon a burnt offering made by God’s servant, Job, who stands in the place of Christ, making an offering of sacrifice (7 bullocks and 7 rams)) for three sinners that were called his friends and of whom it is said, “With friends like that, who needs any enemies?” Which takes me back to Esau who could have said in view of how God treated him: “With an enemy like that who needs any friends.” Esau never learned the idea of a substitute sacrifice made for satisfaction of the claims of justice; he continued in his self serving ways all the days of his life, despising and profaning and trampling under foot the spiritual values which Isaac sought to instill in his sons.

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