Posts Tagged ‘free will’

By Dr. James Ach and J/A

Tony Miano is a Calvinist among the crowd of Calvinists that I usually pick on, but he is an inconsistent Calvinist that does not act like the majority of his cohorts, so I don’t pick on him very much. He is not a bully and tends to avoid much of the vitriolic confrontations initiated by the likes of Fred Butler, JD Hall and that crowd [UPDATE: this has recently began to change. Since Miano has become more cozy with the likes of JD Hall, his attitude has become increasingly vitriolic]. I appreciate that Tony is one of the few professing believers-Calvinist or not-that actually preaches in the streets (and was actually erroneously detained in England for taking a Biblical stand against homosexuality, or rather, for simply answering a question about it [Considering Cameron’s recent UN speech, don’t expect England to change on this anytime soon]) and even though I disagree with his doctrine,  he is one of the few that anyone could use to prove that there are at least SOME evangelistic Calvinists.

But, public preaching of heresy is still heresy, and I can’t compliment someone’s efforts if they are holding to a false gospel, and while Miano may not have intended for his article to be taken that way, that’s the only conclusion that one can leave with, and hence the necessity to refute it.

Miano wrote an article about Christians Hating Adoption by comparing the attitude that some earthly parents have toward adoption as an alternative to abortion, to Christians who also despise God’s work in Biblical adoption. It was this Twitter comment describing his article that caught my attention:

“Christians who despise God’s monergistic work in #adoption should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.”

In other words, if a person does not believe the Calvinistic explanation of HOW God saves people, they are not really saved. It is not enough to simply repent and believe the gospel, but you must also understand the mechanics of how it works in order to be saved. Now despite the fact that even Calvinist theologians themselves have argued for centuries about predestination, preterition, election, whether or not God actively chooses some to heaven and simply “passes over” the non-elect, or whether he purposely selected those damned to hell (see differences between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism), Miano would have to take sides against some of his favorite Reformed theologians and declare that one of them is not saved if having a thorough understanding of how God works is a prerequisite to receiving grace.

There are a number of problems with this. First of all, how does an unregenerate person who can not, as Calvinists admit, “receive the things of the Spirit of God” according to 1 Cor 2:14 and be expected to understand the dynamics of salvation BEFORE HE IS SAVED? Miano puts a condition on salvation that according to even his own theology is impossible for the sinner to achieve.

Secondly,  Tony uses the term “Christian” in the present tense. If the person is in fact a Christian, then it is not possible that he can lose his salvation at some later point because he has not come to a thorough understand of how salvation works. Of course, if Tony is an Arminian then we’d have to argue about his views of conditional security (which in reality, all Calvinism leads to conditional security anyway if you understand the Reformed view of perseverance, but we’ve addressed that problem elsewhere).

Now I would agree with Tony that a person could have believed in vain (1 Cor 15:2), but that’s not the impression that Tony gives. Although I do note that Tony added “professing” Christian at the end of his article, and there is no Scriptural evidence that believing in vain had anything to do with failure to understand the dynamics of the doctrines of soteriology, but about a person’s unwillingness to accept the narrative of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the sufficient payment of our sin that satisfied the wrath of God, and is obtained by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 26:20 (And the very fact that in Acts 26, Paul mentions doing “works meet FOR repentance” shows that repentance and works are not the same thing. Thus in God’s eyes, the command to repent is not viewed as a “work” that has salvific value. Romans 11:6, Titus 3:5, Romans 4:2-7).

LIFE PRESERVER ANALOGY

Tony takes exception to the “life preserver” analogy, which was made popular by Norman Geisler in describing the free will of the person to respond to the gospel. Miano, as most Calvinists, reject this analogy on the grounds that a dead person can’t reach out to grab a rope so the analogy is fundamentally flawed on its premise  according to their view of Ephesians 2. The problem with that critique is that it is equating spiritual death with the physical, a subject we have dealt with in refuting James White’s message about Lazarus (See, Could Lazarus Have Said No?)

If a dead man can’t reach out for the rope, than a dead man can’t call upon the name of the LORD either to satisfy Romans 10:9-13 either. Neither can dead men hear the gospel. If the Calvinist argues that God wakes him up to call upon him, then you have God waking up the person to reach for the rope, but then if the person in the pool is dead, and has been revived by God, why then would he even need to grab the rope at all? He’d be saved before he was saved…AH…but Calvinists actually believe this point-that a person can be regenerated prior to salvation. This is the Reformed way of getting around verses in Acts (e.g. Acts 10-11) where a person demonstrates seeking God (a premise that Calvinists reject is possible according to their view of Romans 3 and Ephesians 2 on Total Inability resulting from God-ordained depravity) prior to being saved.

THE FREE WILL OF THE PREACHER CONUNDRUM [J/A]

Tony’s theology (and really, most Calvinists) ignore the fact that there is still something required of the sinner to be saved, he preaches it all the time: repent and believe. Now here’s what Tony and all Calvinists miss;  Can God save the person without your command for them to repent? Not normally according to Romans 10:14-17  because that’s just not how God chose to do it . Calvinists readily admit this fact and confess that God uses human instruments as the means to gather his elect. But then that still brings you back to square one. If man is used as an instrument in gathering the elect which is necessary for the sinner to hear the words that save (John 6:63), then it’s STILL NOT MONERGISTIC. Although the Calvinists will argue that the sinner himself was made to repent and believe (a whole other heresy) they can not account for the synergistic acts of the preacher which is a requirement for that person to hear the gospel and be saved.

If you disagree, then read Ezekiel chapters 3 and 18 and see what happens to the sinner when the watchman DOES NOT give them God’s message, and then ask yourself this question: If the sinner’s destiny is determined, then why does God hold the watchman accountable at all?

 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him [notice that the stumbling block comes AFTER the sinner’s refusal to turn, not based on some decree made in eternity before the world began], he shall die: BECAUSE thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” Ezekiel 3:18-20

[*This is in reference to Israel, but the means of salvation should be consistent with eternity if Calvinist soteriology is to be taken seriously. Although you will quickly see the Calvinist who is normally Covenant Theology oriented become a Dispensationalist when trying to explain this passage as it relates to the free will of the watchman]

Furthermore, Calvinists often contend that God controls even the means of the salvation process (that’s the whole point of monergism), but they have overlooked something crucial: does God control the preacher? For a Calvinist to be consistent, they would HAVE to say yes, otherwise they breach the golden chain of redemption because if God uses the preacher as the means of bringing the gospel to the sinner, then for the entire process to be truly monergistic, God must also control the preacher as well as the sinner and the sinner’s reactions. But here’s the problem, PAUL SAID THE PREACHER HAS FREE WILL:

 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 1 Corinthians 9:16-17

Thus, Paul gives 2 different scenarios, each of which he can freely choose from. Yet this is contrary to what Calvinism teaches. Paul makes it clear that God does not control the means of salvation which means that even if the relationship between the sinner and God were solely monergistic, without any counterfactual conditionals, the relationship between God and the preacher IS NOT and since that is a necessary step in the sinner hearing the gospel (Romans  10:14-17) the entire Calvinist house of monergist cards falls apart at the free will of the preacher. Regardless of whether you believe the sinner’s fate is predetermined or he actually has the ability to reject the gospel of his own volition, any Calvinist explanation must answer this conundrum. (We will address the Reformed heresy of the secondary causation fallacy when someone brings it up, although this somewhat scratches the surface.) The autonomy of the preacher/watchmen is a death blow to monergism.

SORRY- INSUFFICIENT CREDIT

The statements made by Miano are actually a classic strawman that Reformers use against non Calvinists, i.e., that we think we are actually taking credit for our own salvation if we confess that we called upon the name of the Lord for salvation and willingly choose to repent and believe the gospel as an obedient libertarian free will act. In other words, Calvinists think that a person who is rescued from a heart attack goes around town bragging that he saved himself from his infarction instead of giving credit to the heart surgeon that saved his life.

Was Paul taking credit for his salvation when he said “I was NOT DISOBEDIENT unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19), or when he said ” I know whom **I** have believed”? 2 Tim 1:12.  One can not be both determined to act and describe their actions as being freely committed and be true at the same time. To be obedient unto the gospel is both a command (2 Thess 1:8) and a decision one must make of his own volition (John 8:24-the Bible is FULL OF “if” statements regardless of how much Calvinists reject them, “if” you do not believe, you die in your sin, etc..).

Furthermore, if, as Miano says, that the person is not saved who believes this way, does he all of a sudden forget about his monergism when he admonishes that sinner to EXAMINE HIMSELF? If the person is merely a professing Christian, and not “a possessor” then isn’t that person in the same boat as the sinner Miano preaches to on the street? still in his sin and unregenerate? How then can that person “examine himself”? It seems that along the way, Miano has forgotten to be consistent with his monergism! (And yes, I am aware of 2 Cor 13:5 which has nothing to do with this context, and is an often misquoted verse. Focus!)

MIANO’S MISUSE OF ADOPTION

The problem with using adoption to support Tony’s story is that he is comparing physical adoption of INFANTS not yet born to spiritual adoption which can occur at any age of a person’s life. Does Paul use physical adoption as an analogy in Galatians 3 and Romans 8? Yes, of course, but not how Miano is using it to prove that since an infant has no say so in who his physical parents are that it automatically follows that the subject of adoption in Galatians has no choice in who is spiritual Father is, and if Tony (and any Calvinist) were aware of the requirements for adoption used in Paul’s analogy of the schoolmaster, they would see how erroneous this analogy is. The synergistic relationship between the pupil and the schoolmaster debunks any theory that the adoption process was one of a determined and irresistible status.

Adoption is a beautiful concept that guarantees the believer’s salvation and security, but it is no more ordained against the persons will than a Jew was saved because he was an Israelite (John 1:11-13, Matt 3:9, John 8:39). Like the prodigal, the son can waste away his inheritance willingly (1 Cor 3:11-15), but can not jeopardize his parent/child relationship, the father will always be his father. The New Testament does not use adoption to emphasize the “how” of the salvation process, but the why of salvation’s permanency. 

Although Tony seems to equate disagreeing with despise, I DO despise any ‘doctrine’ that adds to the not only Paul’s clear explanation of the gospel in 1 Cor 15, but also it’s simplicity  (2 Cor 11:3). I also despise strawmen that are erected to mischaracterize the beliefs of many born again soul winners. If this is what Miano preaches on the streets to lost sinners, then it is a false gospel, or at least displays a gross inconsistency on what is required to be saved, and what is expected to be secure.

J/A and Dr. Elisha Weismann

Seek ye the Lord while he may be foundcall ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6-9

There is a clear distinction between the mind of God and the mind of man. The struggle to define the boundaries of accountability and free choice is drawn between definitions of freedom. Free will is the ability to choose A or to not choose A without any compelling force that causes the choice, as opposed to determinism which is the view that God from eternity past has determined all things whatsoever comes to pass. Yet if determinism (viz, compatibilist freedom/soft determinism) is true, and our minds are simply following predetermined responses, then ultimately God is having a universal chess match with Himself.

Free will is important in distinguishing the difference between an infallible creator, and fallible humans. Permitting free will demonstrates that man makes choices that God would not make, and thoughts that God would not think, actions that God would not take. Free will shows that God’s thoughts and actions are infinitely superior to humans. By God allowing man to think and act independently without any external or internal compulsion, man proves that he is incapable of making the best and wisest choices. When man is given the choice to decide between A and B, and chooses B where God would have chosen A, man’s free will shows that he can not possibly be like God.

Free will proves the sovereignty of God far more than a deterministic system. If God determines that man chooses A, then ultimately man has not actually had the ability to make a decision that is independent from God, and if God controls the response as well as the decision, then there is no way to prove that man is not just as equally as intelligent as God.

In a compatibilist form of free will, compatibilists deny that man has the ability to refrain from choosing A or B, but only the freedom to incline and such inclinations being programmed into the man’s will. Thus man is still doing what he wants to do out of the will that he has been programmed with.

Thus, if a computer prints out the letters “ABCDEFG”, it does so not because it chooses to but because that is the manner in which the software has been designed to produce the sequence of letters. The computer is in effect printing what it wants to print based on the software that has given it its available options. However, if a glitch is introduced into the system that causes the computer to print “AXYZEFG” can the computer itself be blamed for its production?

The actions of the computer reflect the programming of the software designer. When a computer fails to produce what it was designed to produce, the creator of the software is held accountable because there is no distinction between the results produced by the computer, and the actions of the programmer. Thus ultimately, man who is pre-programmed to act out of a determined inclination can not be responsible or accountable for what he produces because his own actions and inclinations were not the cause or the ultimate origin of the glitches, but that of the programming.

For God to be the cause of man’s sinful actions and poor choices, deprives God of the ability to claim that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts because inevitably, our thoughts ARE His thoughts if our thoughts are the result of His determining. Compatibilist freedom is no more than a human philosophical attempt to be God. It turns our frailties into God’s attributes by proxy and extension.

Let God be true, and every man a liar (Rom 3:4). Albeit, man can not be said to be a liar if his thoughts and actions are concurrently dictated by that which God determines them to be predisposed to. Ultimately, God would be the cause of the lie, and could not consistently maintain His own truthfulness. The Bible shows an obvious distinction between choice and causation, yet determinism would opine that the 2 are equal:

“Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD” Deuteronomy 12:11

Only libertarian free will provides the distinction between God and humans. Only the permissive will of God that allows humans to act independently and autonomously proves that man is a complete failure in comparison to God. God proves nothing of Himself by determining men to fail. There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Prov 14:12. We see this concept often in our own families with our children. We often permit children to do things that we don’t always approve of, only for them to return later and say “Dad, you were right”. If we force them to do precisely what we desire, we can make no distinction between their reasons, will, and choices from ours. Thus we demonstrate that we are wiser than our children by allowing them to freely fail.

The concept of free will and accountability for choices is ingrained not only into our morals but also our governments. In the legal system, duress is a defense against actions that compelled the defendant to act otherwise than he would have chosen to. Likewise those who compel another to commit a crime are charged with conspiracy.The Bible is replete with examples of free will and accountability:

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21

“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8

“There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9

” Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” Hebrews 11:25

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” Luke 14:28

“Go and say unto David, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.” 2 Samuel 24:12

” And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21

” But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them….I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” Deut 30:17,19.

Furthermore, the Old Testament is full of moments where God shows anger for rebellion against Him. Isaiah 65:2, 2 Sam 4:21, Exodus 4:14, 2 Kings 13:3, Numbers 12:9, Joshua 7:1-13, 2 Sam 24:1, Isaiah 5:25, Judges 2:14. That fact that God reacts negatively to decisions that are made against His will show that God did not determine their actions. It would be absurd to imply that God is angry over actions that He determined and caused.

” And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech;which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” Jeremiah 32:35

“Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.” Isaiah 65:12

The fact that the Bible itself proscribes against compelling others to sin and choose to act negatively is telling of the character of God. Mark 9:42, Romans 14:21.

There are clear Biblical and logical reasons to reject any form of determinism and compatibilist freedom. Divine determinism is an affront to the sovereignty of God because it not only makes the human will and mind equal to God and provides no distinction between His thoughts and our thoughts as it only claims to limit capacity but not origin, it fails to prove that God always chooses that which is ultimately the best and wisest choices by eliminating any standard of comparison to that which is autonomously inferior, thus obscuring God’s own will as well as turning options themselves into a deity equally rivaling God’s omnipotence.

When determinism is compared to Scripture, and reduced to its logical denouement it fails miserably as a legitimate explanation of our relationship to God, our accountability and responsibility for decisions, the very existence of choices, and God’s own autonomy and omnipotence. No Christian should ever be a compatibilist. Only free will rightly provides the distinction that demonstrates the holiness and sovereignty of God.

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See also short excerpts from Dr. Elisha Weismann’s debate on secondary causation on our forum