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Seth McBee

Very good post in looking at this. I would definitely agree with Calvin on this point from two points in Scripture. I definitely don't try and understand fully God's plan in sin and good but will trust His word in it.

The two, one you mentioned, is Genesis 50:20 with Joseph and his brothers...you meant it for evil but God meant it for good and also Peter's sermon in Acts 2 when he speaks that God foreordained the cross but still blames the people for nailing Christ to it. This is definitely tough to understand in my brain but I know that...His thoughts and ways are higher.

God also held people from sinning as well...I am sure you know this so unlike Volfan007's comments about me trying to "teach" you, I am just pointing out...

Gen 20:6 with King Abimelech in regards to Abraham and Sarah.

Also God condemns Bablylon in Jeremiah 25 even though it was His plan that sent them to destroy Judah. Confusing? Hard? Yep..I don't deny...


Seth, My Brother,

Good Morning. I do not at all feel, from our conversations, Seth, that you are "trying" to teach me. Rather, I think that, in good dialogue, no matter who is conversing, both learn from each other.

So, may I ask you then, since you seem to freely choose :) Calvin's rather than Sproul's approach, do you accept his working principle for Divine activity in the world? Calvin writes:

"I have made this providence the determinative principle for all human plans and works, not only in order to display its force in the elect, who are ruled by the Holy Spirit, but also to compel the reprobate to obedience"

Grace this afternoon. With that, I am...


Seth McBee

I have heard it said before that to understand how God "determines" is put in this way. Of course this, like any comparison of God, is not perfect.

In life, God puts us on a ship in port "A" and God's will is for that ship to go to port "B." God will not allow us to do anything to get this ship off course so that it would arrive at a different time or at a different port. But He will allow us to do as we will while we are on the ship as long as it does not interfere with His plans.

I almost threw up just writing this as it is hard to compare God or explain Him but just wanted to give you a little insight of what I think.

Put it this way. If God's plans are to use me to preach in Africa in 20 years,can I today go jump off of a bridge? I would say "no."

does this answer your question?



oh, i think that you could jump off that bridge. although, i hope that you wont do it. but, God would allow you to.

that still would not thwart the plans and purposes of God. you just would not be a part of it.

anyway, the port a and port b stuff....along with sproul's comments....all seem to be in the realm of philosophy...do they not?




Actually, no. I was asking simply if you agreed with what Calvin said in the statement I quoted. However, I am not picky, just a beggar so I'll take what I can get.

Your Port A/B analogy is interesting, Seth. What's more, were I a mind to, it could perhaps describe my view of how I see, at least in some ways, God's providential care being worked out in our lives.

The difficulty for me is, given your agreement with Calvin, how the analogy works for you as well.
From my meager understanding of Calvin, he would not only insist that God determines the boat necessarily goes from port A to port B, but also, every thought, decision, action on the boat must be determined too.

For example, what the cook prepares two months into the trip is divinely determined along with the boat's destination. It must work like that for the Calvinist, it seems to me. Why? Supposing the cook to be a spy, God will have determinately ruined his plans to poison the captain and take the boat to port C.

From my point of view, in a deterministic world, it seems that each decision necessarily must be fixed. For Calvinists, God knows the future because God determines the future. His decision precedes His knowledge.

On the other hand, for the non-Calvinist, while he or she happily concedes that many things may be determined as God so ordains, yet, from the non-Calvinist's view, He also leaves some things non-determined--that is, in the "free-will" decision of His creatures--yet knowing absolutely, in an infinite number of circumstances, that what His free creatures freely do is not the slightest threat to His decrees.
Thus, a person could be relatively free from destination A to destination B.

I thank you very much, Seth, for your fine analogy. I shall tweak it and use it if you do not mind. Unfortuantely, I do not think it fits the Calvinist vision so well.
But! I could very well be wrong. Have a great afternoon. I'm off to the gym. With that, I am...


David Kerr

I had the oppoertunity this semester to take a class titled "Calvin and the Reformed Tradition." As part of the required reading for the class we had to read the vast majority of the 1559 edition of "Institutes of the Christian Religion." I have always considered myself a Calvinist but I was uncomfortable with some of the language Calvin used. For instance Calvin clearly teaches an "unconditional reprobation." (Institutes 3.22.11) I had always thought "election" as unconditional and "reprobation" as the just punishment for sin. It is important to not that Calvin did believe punishment was for actual sin he was hard-edged double predestinarian. (Symmetrical is the term Dr. Sproul uses I believe) Calvin was also quite clear that he despised the language of permission and he taught that God Predestined the fall into sin.(Institutes 3.23.7)

It is also interesting to note that at least some of the Reformed church very soon after Calvin's death were using the language of permission (Zacharias Ursinus "Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism" pg. 297, late 16th century) In the SBTS Abstract of Principles it states that "God either decrees or "permits" all things that come to pass.

I think those of us who claim to be "Reformed" in the SBC probably mean the way Reformed theology has manifested itself in various confessions of faith and not in the writings of John Calvin. I would guess that most people, at least in the SBC, who take the title "Calvinist" have never read Calvin himself.

The class I took on Calvin was extremely helpful. Institutes is a valuable book to read and I enjoyed it. I also realized that I disagree with Calvin at several places and many of those who claim to be reformed today would not agree with Calvin. I am not constrained to agree with everything in Calvin I am constrained only by the word of God.


Peter: I've determined from your last statement that you may be trying to get healthy or stay healthy.

By the way...in reading your position on how Calvinists determine what God determines: doesn't that make God a kind of micro-manager in the world He created? Is that why there is so much weight given to the Potter/Pot scripture?

Scot McKnight has been going through Psalm 119 and I'm finding in that passage that the psalmist seems to revel in the idea of obedience to God's law. So if we revel in obedience and still fall short of the mark in our quest to to arrive at Port B, isn't our disobedience also of God's determination while we're on the ship? What if I am obeying God in every aspect on the boat and the others on the boat decide we aren't going to land at Port B, is that my fault? Where does that put God in the equation? Where does that put me who is following God's law as He commands? SelahV



Thanks for stopping by, my Brother. And, even more, thank you for the much needed post about critically viewing Calvin--including Calvin's hard deterministic understanding of providence. The quotes you offer are enlightening.

The particular quote I cited, Calvin made clear his understanding of the "horrible decree" of absolute predestination to reprobation. He writes "I have made this providence the determinative principle...not only...in the elect...but also to compel the reprobate to obedience"
If I understnd his intention here, he means to say that God's Spirit "compels" the non-elect unbeliever to "obedience." Obedience to what? His unbelief, of course.

Such a strong dose of determinism should make most of us squint our eyes a bit.

I trust your evening one filled with rest. With that, I am...


Seth McBee

You actually were understanding my "disagreement" with Calvin through the analogy. I believe that we, as Christians, have a free will to serve God and now do good but still only in God's will. I do not believe that if God wanted me to preach to Africa in 20 years He would allow me to jump off of a bridge. Just like Paul or Saul at the time, was God's chosen vessel and in the real sense really could not have said no. He was God's instrument and predetermined to do so, just as David says in Psalm 139. God doesn't care that I take 37 steps to go to my mailbox unless there was a car coming that would hit and kill me, then maybe my steps would be a little faster to miss the car, etc.

The boat analogy is to show that we do have a certain free will on that boat but cannnot change God or His plans on that boat. On that boat I cannot "steer it" nor can I "anchor it," unless God's plan allows it. This free will only comes about when we have the Spirit and can do good. Again, Job says, "no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" in Job 42:2. So if God's purpose is for me to preach in Africa in 20 years there is nothing I can do NOR anyone else that can thwart God's plan.

Thanks everyone for the discussion, let's keep this up, I really enjoy conversing with you guys. uhum...and gal...how you like that selahV? May we all be united in Christ's love and never let this discussion or any other thwart us from glorifying God together.

by the way, just as Dr. Olson pointed out, I would gladly preach the Gospel with any of you anytime...His work not ours...and all of us know this.

Scott Shaffer

Hello Peter and friends,

Please correct me if I am wrong, but is it your point that Sproul, a self professed Calvinist, doesn't agree with Calvin himself on this point? If so, perhaps Calvin was the "extreme Calvinist" :>) Seriously though, why would we expect unanimity within the reformed circles of Christianity on this point?



I think you are correct, SelahV in the image of the "micro-manager". However, it rightly should be pointed out that no Bible believing Christian would argue God is NOT concerned with the details. To the contrary, I think He most certainly is.

From my view, what is sometimes missing is making a distinction between what God decrees happens and how God works His decrees out.

The interesting thing is, Scripture seems silent--as far as being explicit goes--in both naming precisely what God's decrees are as well as explaining in detail precisely how God works out His decrees.

That being so, both the Calvinist and non-Calvinist are able to make relatively strong cases for their particular view pertaining to God's decrees and His providence. The question is, which assumptions does one begin with?

The result is this centuries old debate--one by the way, that is not going to go away any time soon. The best we can do is stop yelling at one another and continue to study the Bible while we love our neighbor better than ourselves.

Have a great evening, SelahV. With that, I am...




Thank you! And perhaps our Lord will allow us to cross paths and partner the Gospel. One simply never knows.

Grace. With that, I am...


Seth McBee

Very well put. I totally agree, even if I have to "grin and bear it"

We all know that we are not going to "decide the issue" that goes further back than we all can even read on. I would just hope for a better understanding from some, not saying you Peter, on where I, as a Calvinist, comes from.

Dave Hunt said in Debating Calvinism and many other places that a Calvinist does not love the lost, and this really saddens me because nothing can be further from the truth in my case.

I love the lost and love to see their surrendering to Christ and I love to be God's vessel in doing so (1 Cor 1)



Thanks for participating. And, yes, maybe Calvin IS extreme...

My actual point--if I can remember it:)--was to offer Sproul as an example of how many times Calvinists appear to waver on their very decided committment to determinism.

In essence, determinism needs no language of "permission" or "allowance," at least from my understanding of it. Sproul seemed to employ it to soften the objection that God determined the Fall, and subsequently, through "original sin", determines our fate as well.

As one critic put it, if God absolutely determined the Fall, irrespective of any choice on Adam's part, as irreverent as it might sound, there seems to be only one sinner--God! Adam & Eve, and us as well via "original sin" become puppets for God's purposes.

Consequently, God is responsible but it seems extremely difficult to make Adam responsible when Adam could absolutely do no other than what God absolutely determined him to do.

That was my point even though I did not state it in the same terms.

Grace, Scott. With that, I am...




I agree with you about Hunt's book. He did make some worthy points in it, at least from my view. But those points were totally eclipsed by uncharitable, below the belt punches, that drew only shaking heads from people who agreed with his basic premises.
What a wasted bit of ink!

To be fair, our good old James White has better contributions than in that book as well. As I recall, his entire argument for Limited Atonement rested almost exclusively on a deduction from another doctrine--The High Priesthood of Jesus.

Calvinist theologians Robert Peterson and Michael Williams in their book, "Why I am Not an Arminian" lists, among many non-persuasive reasons why Calvinism is true, that the points of Calvinism are "deduced" from other doctrines. They say that's "weak argumentation".

Peace. With that, I am...

Seth McBee

I pray that I will never stand on anything besides Scripture and always be a berean. It always "urks" me when I see people quote Calvin or a creed for their beliefs instead of Scripture. I understand using those things to help with understanding but I have seen down right, "but he or it says this!"

uhum...who cares...


Peter: I think God is most certainly concerned with the details too. But I think He is concerned quite differently than we think He is concerned. And no matter how many Red Seas He takes us through, we somehow come up short in remembering how details we count as critical, He sums up as incidental.

I realize some folks believe that we have no choice in our salvation. Do the same folks also believe we have no choice in our obedience to His commands?

I think God cares about every step we make, every word we say, and every thought we dwell on. But most especially the spirit and attitude we hold when saying and doing and thinking. There is where our yielding to His Spirit is essential in my thinking. Bless you all.

Keith Schooley

Augustine championed a free-will theodicy before his contentions with the Pelagians led him into positing unconditional election of individuals. There has always been (to say the least) a tension between those two positions. I think one reason why most Calvinists shrink back from Calvin's hard determinism (by which I mean both double predestination and the predestination of the Fall) is that they recognize that it undermines a free-will theodicy and implicitly makes God the author of sin. It was that that made Arminius and Wesley turn against unconditional election of individuals, not some desire to take credit for a portion of salvation, as is often accused.

For me, C.S. Lewis's polemics against materialistic determinism (in Miracles) also innoculated me against theistic determinism. Lewis wrote that if naturalism is true, then one's thoughts are merely the cause-and-effect result of physical and biological forces; therefore one cannot know that one's reasoning is true, including one's commitment to naturalism! Similarly, if I believe that God determines my thoughts (including trust or lack of trust in Christ), then I cannot know whether my reasoning is true, or whether it is simply what God determined me to believe, since it appears that He has determined many different people to believe many different things.

So far, it appears that God has predestined me to be an Arminian.



Good morning. The distinction you assert between the former and latter Augustine is one I sense few Calvinists seem to admit or, perhaps some newer Calvinists do not appreciate. Norm Geisler makes this difference fairly clear in his dialogus with historic Calvinism.

Also, I am appreciating much more, the older I become, the absolute genius of C.S.Lewis. He may be the non-Calvinist's greatest resource in explaining "their side."

Have a relaxed morning. With that, I am...



But of course Keith, if you are predestined by the over-reaching Micromanager to be an Arminian, you have no way of knowing if your reasoning is true, now do you? So there's hope for you yet, ey, my friend? He he.



PETER: You did it! The bold print reduced to normal print has relieved my eyes. That's what it was that caused the halos. Thanks, brother. selahV


Keith: It is so refreshing to read someone who holds another view explain it in a way that makes it more palatable to taste and easier to digest.
Timotheos: Ditto for you. (I left you a rather long-winded answer to your kind and gracious reponse to my earlier questions on Peter's previous blogpost). Please pause and think about it, and respond. Thanks...selahV

Peter: I so appreciate you my brother.


I wrote something last night. But it disapeared? Anyhow my contention is that Sproul and Calvin had no final contradiction. My arguement runs this way: Suppose God intented E by means that he causes A which causes B which causes C which Causes d which causes E. Now God's intention was the Good of E therefore God is praised for the good result E however D's intention to cause E was evil therefore D is help responsible for his intention. Furthermore, becuase there was a causal sequence we could say that God permited D and we could say that God willed D. If our perception that God has an ultimate purpose E purpose and had the means of D then then we are saying that God Willed D. However when we start with the D we think in terms of God permiting D. I used a quote from the same chapter of the intitutes to show that calvin did believe means to accomplishing his will. This would allow both "permit" and "willed" to apply to God. Therefore there is no contradiction between Sproul.
Keith, good point about our theory of knowing and materialistic determinism. However, you will be faced with the same problem of knowing in your free will theism. Either you arrived at you belief by 1.) a causal sequence or you arrived 2.) by chance. In other words your belief is either determined or indeterminate. There is no middle ground (Law of excluded middle) For those no familiar with this law of logic it means that something cannot bother be true and false (A= not A). Now is your belief comes by a 1.) a causal sequence then we have affirmed determinism (not necessarily materialistic determinism) if our beliefs come 2.) by chance then we have no justicication for our beliefs. 2.) is what you must affirm if you will is free from causal sequence. But if this is true then our beliefs pop in our head without any reason and if it is truelly free then we do not have control over it. Thus, while there might be a problem with a theistic determinist theory of knowing there is an even greater problem with an non-determinist theory of knowing. Anyhow blessings in Christ.
P.S. Peter, I have been wondering about this, are you an open theist? If you are I would be very interested in understanding your system. I have never met an open theist.



thankz. i.m on my handheld so this is brief for now. 1st on the surface it will take more than a bit of formal logic exercise to make calvin and sproul agree specifically when calvin says permission is absurd
2nd arguing libertarian free will surely possesses somec unique problems but not the same as you seem to imply in your comment to keith
3rd no I am no open theist. and though some calvinists suggest that the only consistent alternativve to theistic determinism is open theism I simply suggest they seriously mistaken
with that I am...peter


Stephen, I knew I should have paid more attention in Algebra class. LOL. I'm on my way to shop for a birthday present, but I'm gonna come back and really really look at what you and Peter are discussing right now. Hey, I posted some really wonderful blogs about almost nothing of importance on a couple of my blog sites. why don't ya'll come over and visit me? selahV


Thanks for your post. I forgot to deal with Calvins use of language. Last night i included that with my post that disapeared. I think i accidentally went out on the back arrow and it deleted it. I think there is alot of ambiguity with the word "permission." I think what calvin is referring to is the idea that so many people have that God permits something to occur but does not intend for that something to occur. There was a passage from the same chapter of the institues that I qouted last night that show that Calvin did believe in means to accomplishing Gods goal. I am at the church now and my copy of the institutes is at home so.... Anyhow, this is how i think Calvin was talking about permission. I could be wrong. However if i am wrong about calvin using the term then we know that Sproul was using the term in a way that would have been suitable to calvin. I think that there is a kind of eqivacatory problem, that is I think you are assuming that they mean the same thing by the same word. The logic in my last post demonstrates that there is no substantial difference in theology, therefore the meanings of the word "permission" are different. If you disagree with my interpretation then it would be helpful to demonstrate that they used the word "permit" in the same sense. Any how it would be interesting for you to send you analyis to sproul and see if he can clear up the misunderstanding. That might be the best way. I am not quite sure that either one of us can be 100 percent sure. I can see how you arrived at you interpretation and hopefully you can see how I arrived at my interpretation.
My questions concerning open theism was purely inquisitive. I do believe that open-theism is logically where non-calvinism runs but I do not believe that every non-calvinist is an open-theist. I did not think you were an open-theist. I just wanted to know more about your theology. On your second point I would like to know more on you thoughts. It seems to me, as I have demonstrated, that there is a huge epistimic problem with libertine free will. Also I do think that we can, on the theistic deterministism side, have a viable epistemology while the materialistic determinist cannot. First, there is no God in the materialistic determinism that ordains that we learn and learn by rational means. In theistic determionism, God does ordain that we learn by means. Of course I am fallible and do not have the certainty that God has. Therefore, we have saved epistemology. But, with a libertine free will, I do not understand how you can justify knowing anything becuase whatever you think you know has poped there by chance and not the result of causal sequence. As my arguement in the last post shows this is necessited by the indeterminate position. One cannot have both Determinism and indeterminism. Libertine free will takes the latter position. Therefore, out of the positions offered I think that the only position that gives a viable epistemology is theistic determinism.
Blessings in Christ to you all!!


boy, my head is now hurting after reading all the a and b and c stuff. what a headache. it reminds me of philosophy class in college.

keith, predestined to be an arminian.....lol....thats goooooood stuff, man.


Keith Schooley


Re: A-B-C-D-E, are you saying that God only positively determines "big" events (e.g., Joseph being in a position to save Egypt and the surrounding area from starvation) but only passively allows "little" events (e.g., his brothers selling him into slavery), or are you saying that all the events are determined, the evil ones being necessary to accomplish the good ones? Was that evil really necessary to maneuver Joseph into that position?

Re: Free will theodicy vs. theistic determinism: Lewis distinguishes between two types of causation: the cause-effect "because" and the ground-consequent "because." A logical sequence is a series of ground-consequent relationships. However, if you treat a logical thought process as a series of cause-effect relationships, you undercut the idea that they are also ground-consequent relationships. In the physical world, maybe everything is either causally determined or random; in rational thought (as well as spirituality) there is either something coming in from the outside, or there is no reason that the cause-effect sequence in my brain should be the same as the cause-effect sequence in yours. I.e., all persuasion is dead.

BTW, I said "Free will theodicy," not "Free will theism." A theodicy is a theory of why evil exists.

Re: Open Theism - Open Theists and Calvinists have one thing in common: they both assume that foreknowledge necessarily implies predestination. The Calvinist says, God foreknows, therefore we are predestined. The Open Theist says we are not predestined, therefore God does not foreknow. The classical Arminian says that God's foreknowledge does not imply foreordination. His foreknowledge is like our knowledge of the past: He sees what we will choose to do, but does not determine that choice, just as I see that you wrote a couple of comments today, but didn't determine that you would do so.


Wow Keith! I'm impressed! You actually did pay attention in Algebra class. I'm only kidding Stephen.

Volfan: I really think you ought to start your own blog. It would be so much fun. You could limit comments to under 50 words. Communication would have to be succinct, and have limited adjectives in a sentence. C'mon...do it. "If you build it, they will come." Hee hee! selahV



Thanks, my Brother, for your very challenging remarks. Also, I thank Keith for weighing in. And, while I simply do not want to hang around in this sphere too long--realizing as I do the treacherous jungle the philosophical world can be in which, I remian sure, I'd lose my way sooner or later--I'll offer a few comments and yield to Keith.

First, from my perspective, I cannot accept, from your reading, Stephen, that Calvin meant "permission" in any other way than a straight-forward reading of it. To argue that he and Sproul somehow "agree" in formal logical categories seems fantastic to me.

Secondly, I think, from my meager understanding of Calvinistic determinism, that the move Calvinists make toward arguing a "decree of permission" is more of an apologetic ploy, or in what Keith wisely flung into view, a "theodicy", than anythig else. Without the appeal to decretal "permission", Calvinists cannot, it seems to me, continue holding to Divine determinism without also accepting God's responsibility for evil and sin's existence.

In point of fact, Calvinists are explicit in their insistence that the decree of "permission" is applicable to sin and sin ONLY. No other permissive decree exists than the permissive decree to sin.
Shedd says "The permissive decree relates ONLY to moral evil. Sin is the SOLE and SOLITARY object of this species of decree" (emphasis mine). Berkof and Hodge apparently agree.

Calvinists, then, must appropriate some form of God "allowing" sin in order to defend God from sin Himself. Indeed this was one of Jacob Arminius' initial objections against Beza'a supralapsarianism. Interestingly, the language of permission and God "allowing" flows perfectly within a non-deterministic framework.

The difficulty, however, for Calvinistic determinists is now twofold. First, is the move to accomodate the "permissive" decree actually successful? Yes, but only if the "permissive act"--in this case, free will--is redefined to some form "compatible" with the Calvinist's relentless committment to unconditional determinism.

Secondly, if free will is so redefined to "fit" determinism, is it possible for free will, in the new "compatibilist" understanding, to survive serious scrutiny? For me, I do not think it does.

Theo-philosopher John Feinberg notes that Calvinists are really stuck with what I recall as something like "causally determined free will." From my view, Calvinists would be better served by simply leaving it in the area of "mystery" and affirming their determinism than arguing for the existence of a square circle.

Perhaps I am already lost in the jungle here, so I will simply go back to my readers' digest version of a simple preacher trying to make my journey toward Home a little safer. I only hope I can help some others to miss a few stumps over which I myself have tripped.

Thanks for the conversation Stephen. With that, I am...



How is something ground-consequent? Is it caused or random? Again the same arument follows. If you simly want to relagate the cause and effect to the physical and have so kinda freeness in the spiritual or rational world the same problem arises. We cannot have it both ways. Again as my arguement works out, and i think it sound, I think that only a theistic determinism saves the day epistemologically speaking. Perhaps you have a point that I a missing. Please work out this ground consequent idea.
You also asked if I was saying that God only caused big events- No I am not.
Blessings in Christ,


I really apreciate your conversations. I also apreciate your willingness to talk about tough issues. It has been my experience that so many of my noncalvinist fellow church members, when i was trying to figure out were very unwilling to even think about this idea.
Peter, i have argued from the first post that one could speak of "permission" intelligibly in a deterministic system. I still stand by that. Whether we can agree on Calvins use of the term matters very little to me. I dont see it as that important.
You stated that we have redefined free will and that we have a new understanding of compatabalism. However it is important to note that Aristotle was a compatablistic philosopher. His Nicomachean ethics contains a very well thought through defense of responsibility within a compatabalistic system. This was certainly not new but has exited for over two thousand years. Sure aristotle was a pagan-dont tell Aquinas!- but don't throw the baby out with the bath water!
Again to recap. I think my arguement from a earlier post shows that we can intelligibly say that God determines D and also permits D.
You say that perhaps we should call it a mystery. I think Calvin would of liked the idea. In the institues he was obssessed with not going beyond what scripture taught. I totally agree. He was deeply afraid of putting his own desires into his scriptural interpreation. This is to be commended I think. However I dont think that we should just shove this off to mystery so easily. I think there is a easy logical solution. I believe I have demonstrated this. Anyhow, thanks for the great conversation. This is a really really good conversation. P.s. Please pray for me on friday mornig I have my final exams!
Blessings in Christ

Keith Schooley

Hi Stephen--

Best wishes on your finals! I know how good it feels to have them over and done.

Lewis was distinguishing between two uses of the word, "because." Cause-effect would be, "The ball fell because the Earth's gravitation attracted it." Ground-consequent would be, "I know that Socrates is mortal because he is a man and all men are mortal." If it can be shown that my belief in the latter statement is only based on a cause-effect relationship of atoms in my brain, then there is no reason to regard the statement as logically true. This is developed in much greater depth in chapter 3 of Lewis's "Miracles."

Regarding your Law of the Excluded Middle: the law of the excluded middle only states that a proposition is either true or false; so you can correctly claim that I must choose between random and not random, or caused and not caused; but you can't posit caused and random as the only two options and claim that there is no third option.

Let's apply your logic to God. Are God's actions caused, or random? If they are caused, then God is not God, because He cannot doas He wills; if they are random, then God is arbitrary and we cannot rely on His character. No, God has a free will, by which He acts in a manner that is self-determined, based on His own choice. I trust we agree on this; and therefore I trust that we agree that freedom of will must conceptually exist, even if God is the only one who possesses it.

Now, is God able to create beings apart from himself that also possess free will - that is, able to act in a way that is neither completely random nor completely caused by forces apart from that being? I am not yet asking if He has actually done so; merely if it is conceptually possible. I see no reason why it wouldn't be. If God Himself has this quality, I see nothing inherently impossible about Him infusing this same quality into one or more of His creations. So it is at least theoretically possible that beings apart from God have the ability to act in a manner that is neither completely determined nor completely random, but rather is determined by the will of that individual being.

And if this is possible, even theoretically, then the choice that you are trying to force between a necessary determinism on one hand and the unknowability of anything on the other will be shown to be a mere begging of the question: there is at least one more option - self-determination, or will, which this false dichotomy is attempting to exclude a priori.

Incidentally regarding "mystery": I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet regarding the use of this term by theologians. "Mysterion" in scripture is used to refer to something that is hidden that God later reveals. The means by which God would make good on His promise to Abraham to make him a blessing to all nations was a mystery until the answer - Christ - was revealed. However, theologians seem to use this term when they've run their theology into a logical contradiction. I think, frankly, that most of the time it's a cop out.

One last minor quibble: would you mind, Stephen, separating your paragraphs with a blank line? It would make reading your comments easier.


hey, the way i look at it is this...the ball falls because when i let it go.....it falls.



Peter: I can't believe it! I actually "got" what you were saying in your post to Stephen. Thanks for clearing that up for me, at least.

Have a great and blessed weekend. Got your shopping done? selahV



I said a prayer for you. I trust our Lord graced you with clarity & recall as you tested this mornign.

A few comments. First, whether Aristotle was compatibilist or not is--and congradulations are in order, for you seem, Stephen, to be much more confident of his ethical intracacies than say, the Stanford Encycl. of Philosophy--in the end, moot. The question is, does Calvinism necessarily need a comaptibilist understanding of free will to hold onto determinism.

And, if so, does the Calvinist's version of compatibilist free will stand up under serious scrutiny? Frankly, Stephen, while you twice asserted you demonstrated such, I fail to see neither.

Secondly, you write: "...my arguement [sic] from a earlier post shows that we can intelligibly say that God determines D and also permits D."

But Stephen, I do not think any one has denied such. I certainly have not. If God determines D surely God permits D.

There are, nevertheless, two dangling questions that I feel is still being overlooked. First, if God can determine D, supposing D to be evil, and permit D while not being responsible for D's evil, why can not also God determine P, supposing P to be good, and permit P while not taking credit for P's good?

The second question is, if D is sufficiently caused by God, and D's causing P is also only sufficiently caused by God, how is it not God's causing P?

Let me see if I can say this better. My Dad-in-Law is a 300 lb man who is unfortunately almost invalid. Suppose I wanted to move PaPa from the bed to the couch.

If I called for my brother to assist me, then surely we together caused him to go from the bed to the couch. Genuinely there were two causes--he and I.

However, suppose my brother is gone to the golf course but I still need to move PaPa. My ingenuity assists me to rig a contraption to leverage him up, put him in the wheelchair and roll him to the couch.

In the former scenario, there were genuinely two causes. However, in the latter, there is really, in essence, only one cause--me. The contraption, the wheelchair, etc were only INSTRUMENTS in performing my one purpose, me being the singular cause.

For me, I think Calvinistic determinism is similar to the latter and not the former. If I am correct, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that for Calvinistic determinism, God is really the singular cause of evil and sin. Men and women serve only as hoists and wheelchairs.

Have a great day, my Stephen. With that, I am...



Peter and Keith,
Thanks for your response and thoughts as I go through the finals. I cannot wait till I actually can sleep at night.

There is alot I must respond to. First Keith, I think you have made a good point about God. It seems that if we can get God out of a causes and effect sequence then we surely can get man out. Therefore, since it is unthinkable for God to be bound in a causal sequence, then it must also be the case with man. However even if is the case with God it doesnt mean it is the case with man. Several things I must respond with.

1.) Is God free in the libertarian sense? We do know that it is impossible for God to lie-therefore it is impossible for God to do anything apart from his nature. I would argue that God cannot do anything apart from his nature. He is Good there is no evil in Him and it is impossible for him to do evil.

2.)It is obvious from above that God is not totally free, however does that mean God is fully free from Cause and effect. I am not sure. Theologians have long taught the incomprehensibility of God. I cannot know the essence of God. So therefore I really dont know. Honestly this is a question I have been pondereing for the last 2 semesters. I dont think I can answer it. I dont think anyone can except for God. I will say this though. If God can affirm a logical contradiction, this will have huge implications for how theistic philosophy should be done. Most christian theistic philosophy assumes that God cannot know logical contradictions. Therefore, the justification of logic within the theistic worldview has always been becuase logical thinking is thinking Gods thoughts after him. However it seems that if God is libertinely free then I think God can affirm logical contradictions. This is a subject I hope to think about more. What do you think, can God affirm logical contraditions? If so what are the implications for knowing anything? It seems this might destroy epistemology completely and lead to a kind of theistic skepticism. Anyhow this is my random thinking outloud. For those who might easily jump on and say that God can affirm contradictions, I am not sure you realize how damaging that idea is to you own belief. But to the question of Gods freedom, since it deals with the essence of God, we must affirm that this is a mystery.

3. The point about the contradiction with libertine free will is this if we have "self determination" what does that mean? Is it really an intelligible concept. Even if it was true could we be justified in believing something that cannot be spoken about meaningfully? If something is "self determinative" then either self determinative actions are caused or uncaused. If it is uncaused, and that is where you are wanting to go, then it is chance. There is no middle ground. An uncaused event is by definition chance.

4.)You also claimed that if atoms worked together to affirm the statement above, then we would have no reason to believe it is true. What if the body, design by God, was made so that when the atoms produced the resulting belief, we could be certain of the truth claim?

I am not a materialist by any means, however I do affirm that the body and the rational side of man are united. When a person gets drunk the alcohol does effect the mind of man.

I do not hold aristotles system with such high esteem as you might think. However I do think there is a lot of true parts to his ethical system. But, for the most part it does have a lot of problems with it. The whole actual and possible distinction is problematic. However, I think the teleological aspects of his met-ethical system is very informative. Peter there has been alot from Keith and you so I cannot repond to everything. Please for give me. However you wrote, "The second question is, if D is sufficiently caused by God, and D's causing P is also only sufficiently caused by God, how is it not God's causing P?"
I like the question. If within the causal sequence God causes a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l-m-n-o-p (I am only using such a long line to illustrate a further point), with God causing A with the purpose of finally p we can speak of God causing every single one the the letters. Howeve lets say that o did evil to cause p. We can say that God ultimatly causes o and that evil was part of his will. This is affirmed all over the bible. Hard pill to swallow but, i think God is not held responisble for the evil becuase it was Gods intention for the God of p while he used the evil intentions of o. So o is held reponsible for evil-becuase that was his intention and the good of p goes to God becuase that was Gods intention.

Now permit me to do a reductio to your arminianism. Peter, I am not sure whether you are a real arminian or just a Baptist synergist. I don't want to accuse you of something your not just as I don't want to be. However, do you remember the long letter sequence? a-p well you must also affirm the same thing if you believe in Foreknowledge. God knows that his first action a would result in finally evil of o but he chose a anyway. Now did God do that for a purpose or did he do it for no purpose at all. If no purpose at all I think the problem of evil is a true logical contradiction. If God did it for a pupose then how does this not lead us to Calvinism? I think reprobation is an even bigger problem for synergist.

1.) God wants all men everywhere saved without distinction

2.) God knows that not everyone he makes will be saved but rather he must eventually damn.

Anyhow, to recap, too little time to write. You guys have made some good points however, keith I dont think your "ground consquent" idea is intelligible. If it is not intelligible, even if it is true, like if we can affirm logical contradictions, then we still have more reason to affirm my position becuase it intelligible. Peter, I am sorry that I can't respond now in a way that you would probably want me to, however I will try later.
Blessings in christ and thank you for praying for me, it means alot!



we used to have an a&p store in our town. is that what you are talking about? i think they sold groceries. i guess they were predestined to go out of business....cuz they did.



Let me go a little further on how God makes decisions. I don't think we can intelligible speak of God being free from causal sequence and I don't think we can speak intelligibly of God not being free from causal sequence. God is incomprehinsible in His essence. That is all I can say about the issues.
However Humans are not incomprehensible. We are definatly not infinite.

Volfan007 no I am not talking about an a&p store. I am from Texas, I don't think we have such a store. I am a little confused about why you think I was talking about a retail store:<

Did they go out of buisness? I guess God did predestine the store to go out of buisness. Or God could have been completely uninterested in the store (i smell deism) or maybe he did not know that the store existed and that the causal sequence that he began would ultimatly effect the store!! (open theism) After all Volfan007 he surely doesnt work all things after the council of his will does he? Volfan007 I like it that you have passion for what you believe and you want to make your points. However, I am not sure what point you are making. I do sense the sarcasm. Sarcasm can be a kind of attack. It doesnt really make an arguement unless it is really well thought through and presented well. However, even when it is logically presented well it is more often than not percieved as an attack on the person and not the arguement. For clarities sake. Please refrain from sarcasm and make good points. If I have said something in error demonstrate coherently where I am going wrong. The problem today with both Calvinism and NonCalvinist is that they are busy attacking each other rather than the arguments. If you mean to attack me, you must realize that you have not shown my position wrong, it just shows that you dont like it.
Blessings in Christ,



i was not attacking you. i was making light of all the a and b and c and p philosophizing. my point was that this is a lot of philosophy. i prefer not to dwell in the realm of the unknown...what God has not shown us.

but, my bro., i was not attacking you, and i certainly dont want you to take it that way.

volfan007, aka, the tn ridgerunner

Keith Schooley


I feel bad--I'm sorry that our little debate takes time and thought from your exams. Please don't do yourself and your studies a disservice on our account. We can wait a while for an answer.

For my part, I'll be brief; I think I've made my point, and I don't think you are really satisfied with your own response. Perhaps some time to chew on one another's thoughts is in order.

1) I certainly don't think that God can affirm a logical contradiction (which is why I thought God an appropriate "test case" for your assertion). Therefore, if God can affirm it, the apparent contradiction wasn't really a contradiction at all. That was my point.

2) You keep asserting, without proof, that "an uncaused event is by definition chance," or as you said before, random. That is where you are begging the question; you are assuming the thing that you are trying to prove. I maintain that a voluntary action is not "caused" in the sense you mean (i.e., by exterior forces) nor is it random. You can claim "no middle ground" if we were talking about caused vs. uncaused, or random vs. orderly; but caused vs. random is a false dichotomy. If you would simply recognize that, you wouldn't have to retreat into the "inscrutable mystery" argument, about which I wrote in an earlier post.

3) Regarding "ground vs. consequent," I really must refer you to Lewis. Please don't make the mistake of assuming that just because I haven't articulated something clearly enough, it is unintelligible. That's too easy a dismissal. And I really hope you're not making the mistake of assuming that what doesn't fit your preconceptions is unintelligible. I really don't think you're that arrogant.

So much for being brief! You're welcome to respond, Stephen; for my part, it looks like we're about ready to go around in circles, and I get dizzy far too easily.

God bless you in your finals.



I very much appreciate your spirit. And, of course, no apologies necessary about not keeping up. I have found myself in the very same place. No sweat. Just because all questions posed to one are not answered does not mean all questions do not possess an answer--perhaps even a darn good one! I learned a hard lesson about that once pestering someone with a persistent question I confidently knew he possessed no answer until he finally opened his mouth and made me to be the town square's buffoon :)

One problem in this conversation, Stephen, from my view, is that, even some of the important questions addressed, is addressed, unfortunately, with a simple assertion. Let me show you what I mean.

You responded to one question--actually, the lessor I would have desired addressed--you liked with "Howeve lets say that o did evil to cause p. We can say that God ultimatly causes o and that evil was part of his will. This is affirmed all over the bible. Hard pill to swallow but, i think God is not held responisble for the evil becuase it was Gods intention for the God of p while he used the evil intentions of o. So o is held reponsible for evil-becuase that was his intention and the good of p goes to God becuase that was Gods intention."

Stephen, I agree with you when you say "...evil was part of his [God's] will...affirmed all over the bible." Non-Calvinists surely do not believe that evil cannot be within the radar screen of our Lord.

However, why it would be a "Hard pill to swallow", is really, from my view, more the Calvinist's hard pill than the non-Calvinist's and is really part of the entire discussion.

Here, Stephen is where you simply assert but offer no real substance for your position, I am sorry to say. You write "i think God is not held responisble for the evil becuase it was Gods intention for the God of p while he used the evil intentions of o."

I'm glad you think so, Stephen, and you will be happy to know that I--as a non-Calvinist, rather than an Arminian, by the way. Though Keith does, I believe, actually self-identify as Arminian--agree wholly with you. It's the answer as to exactly why God IS NOT RESPONSIBLE that is at issue, here. Calvinists & non-Calvinists appear to offer very different answers to that question.

You seem to say--and I'm sure you will not agree, but it is how I read your answer--that God is not responsible for evil because God is not responsible for evil.

I attempted to show thru PaPa's move to the couch how, in the Calvinist's view of "secondary causes",the attempt to get God off the hook fails. In my understanding of Calvinistic determinism, we--being the secondary causes of evil God uses to accomplish His ultimate good--are analogous, from my reading of determinism, to instruments acted upon by God Himself, not free choosing beings working out independently our self-determined motives. To the contrary, our motives and desires are under the explicitly determinative will of God, according to the Calvinist.

Thus,since, for the Calvinist, one's motives, one's desires, one's circumstances that constitute sufficient causes to bring about what God wants are themselves absolutely determined by God, it seems to follow that no other choice could be made than the one made.

If this is correct, it seems to suggest that what follows is Feinberg's "causally determined free will". Moral freedom like this, from the non-Calvinist's perpective, reduces to little more than an illusion. For me, it just isn't persuasive at all.

In the end, Stephen, it seems to me, the determinist must do more than postulate a series of a-b-c-b-o-p, boldly proclaiming at the series' end, that God is not responsible.

Rather the Calvinist must explain the relations between primary cause and secondary cause--if they are going to use this as an apologetic--and demonstrate how, if the secondary cause is sufficiently caused ONLY by the dictates of Primary cause, how it is that the Primary cause is definitively NOT responsible for the secondary cause's effect.

Not to mention, Stephen, if God can cause us to commit evil without being held morally responsible Himself, how He could not also cause us to commit moral good without also getting the moral praise.

That is, if God is not responsible for the effects of secondary causes his creatures make, how is it that the Elect should even praise Him for their salvation? Is not their faith an effect of secondary cause?

If so, I should be able to stand before God and praise myself for my faith and belief and good works I CAUSED AND GOD DIDN't. I, after all, am responsible rather than God.

For at least 4 centuries or so, Calvinist determinists have failed to demonstrate either. So, we won't be disappointed if it is not accomplished in a few posts on our little blog :)

Have a great weekend, Stephen. We no doubt will pick this converstaion up again somewhere down the pike.

Grace for Lord's Day tomorrow. With that, I am...




Thanks for the comments. Your right I am not happy with affirming a mystery. I do want to figure out problems. I always have.

1.)I don't think God can affirm a contradiction either. I think Luther and Decartes are the only theist that have supported that claim. I knew that you were asserting God as a test cause. However, by most explanations of Libertine Free Will, or at least the one's I am familiar with is that, among other things, "one can choose otherwise." But God does not fit within this catagory. God cannot sin and it is impossible for him to do such a thing. Another aspect of the Libertine free will Theodicy is that a decision is meaningless unless it can be chosen other wise. But again, it is impossible for God to choose otherwise. So, I don't think God can fit within the Libertine Catagory. Therefore I think the premises are wrong. I don't understand exactly how God makes decisions and I think it is impossible to know, becuase of the incomprehensibility of God in His essence. However, I don't think he fits within the LFW catagory.

2.) You wrote, "
I maintain that a voluntary action is not "caused" in the sense you mean (i.e., by exterior forces) nor is it random." Keith then I think you are moving away from Libertine Free Will. Compatablistic determinism doesnt mean that all of our willing come from exterior causes. For instance, I am by nature sin, whenever I am supposed to choose Good I necessarily sin-I could not have chosen otherwise-until Christ intervenes and gives me the grace to be able to do something Good in Gods eyes. Apart from my Union with Christ I can do no Good thing. Now My inclination to choose sin is an interior inclination my oppurtunity is exterior. So therefore if you believe that our decisions are internally caused, Do you deny them being externally caused also, in every situation? If not come on over to the Calvinist side!!

On a serious note though, if you are asserting that we can have uncaused, but not chance events then I think you should have to demonstrate. Not simply to proove your point, but becuase I see this a contradition by definition and I cannot even grasp this. If you can do this I would be very much interested in knowing how. I think it would help me understand your position better.

3.)You also wrote, "Please don't make the mistake of assuming that just because I haven't articulated something clearly enough, it is unintelligible. That's too easy a dismissal. And I really hope you're not making the mistake of assuming that what doesn't fit your preconceptions is unintelligible. I really don't think you're that arrogant."

Thanks keith for not thinking I am that arrogant. I do not mean that it is unintelligible in the sense that, becuase I dont understand it, it is wrong. It would not simply be arrogant but also just flat stupid. When I say that it is unintelligible I mean that it is a contradition. My arguement is that libertine free will is a contradition. Let me outline my arguement so that you can attack it and, if you think I dont understand your position, I can learn your position.
My argument is as follows:

1.) If it is an event takes place and is not caused then it is random.

2.)An event takes place and it is not caused

3.)Therefore it is random.

I think, to clear up our disagreement, that you disagree with the first premise. If you do then please attack it (not me, my brother).

Keith, my brother, it does look like we might go in circles if we do then we might want to quite.

However, I have layed out my argument above and If we remain clear perhaps we can get some work done. By the way my arguement if valid so then it seems that if we get anywhere you must attack my premises. For those who dont understand the definition of validity I will explain. Validity in logic doesn't mean that my position is true. It simply states that the form in which my arguement takes, if the premises are true that then conclusion much also be true. So when I state that my arguement is valid I mean it is put in the proper form.

Keith, also thanks for your consideration at this time that I go through finals!
Blessings in Christ,



I appreciate your response. You wrote that I did not demonstrate. If I did no such thing then I am sorry. Becuase I keep writing you after Keith, When I get to your post I find that time is suffiently lacking. Your post deserves more time and attention than I have given. Your points are well taken. I will not write back tonight becuase it deserves more attention than I can give at this point. However, I plan to address you position adequatly. If I have interpreted rightly, you are arguing that moral responsibility entails Libertine Free Will. Also I plan to respond on Monday becuase I need to buckle down and get my last remaining work done for finals. Then I will be Free (not libertinely! ha) Have a great Lords Day!
Blessings in christ and happy holiday season!!


sometimes things in the bible may look like a contradiction, but in reality, they are not. we just cant see how they come together in our little, finite minds. but, God does know.

volfan007, aka, the tn ridgerunner


Thank you for your consideration as I have gone through finals. I am finally done. It feels great and it is time for the holidays. You responded that I have not been doing a good job demonstrating my position. I am completely sorry for my lack of clarity. I have spent most of my time writing in a hurry.

I will try to respond to your last post against my position to the best of my ability. I will answer your post in two ways. First, I will argue the impossibility of your conception of moral responsibility. Second, I will give a positive argument as to how God hold us responsible.

You have written, "You seem to say....that God is not responsible for evil becuase God is not responsible for evil." This of course is not my argument. If It was I can understand how you would see this as unconvincing.

You also wrote, " attempted to show thru PaPa's move to the couch how, in the Calvinist's view of "secondary causes",the attempt to get God off the hook fails. In my understanding of Calvinistic determinism, we--being the secondary causes of evil God uses to accomplish His ultimate good--are analogous, from my reading of determinism, to instruments acted upon by God Himself, not free choosing beings working out independently our self-determined motives. To the contrary, our motives and desires are under the explicitly determinative will of God, according to the Calvinist."

I have two things to say to this
A.)Your unargued assumption is this: For someone to be morally responsible he should have the ability to choose otherwise than he has. I do disagree with this. The problem with this is the following.

First, to bring in a little historical theology, it was the pelagians who's slogan ran that God would not give us a command that we could not follow. This was condemned by the church with more church councils that any other heresy. If moral responsibility entails that a person be able to choose otherwise then for God to hold us accountable to a law we should be able to fullfill it, but as scripture teaches "apart from Christ we can do nothing" John 15:5 only in our union with Christ can we do anything righteous before God.
Second, If our moral responsibility follows from our ability to choose other wise then it follows that Christ in his fullfillment of the law achieved no moral responsible good merit. Becuase of his divine nature he had not the ability to not do righteous acts. It is impossible for God to lie and to do other unrighteous acts Heb 6:18
It is important to note that your philosophical concept of the Libertarian Free Will's notion that for an act to be morally responsible then that agent must be able to choose otherwise comes from Plato. Augustine adopted this in his work on the freedom of the will. Later Augustine retracted this in his work of "on retractions."
Third, the bible does not teach this. The bible does say that God holds us accountable and will judge us for choosing to do sin. However, this does not logically necessitate that we have the ability to choose otherwise. There simply is no logically necessary conection. Furthermore, the scripture teach us that God holds us accountable for what we are, not simply for what we do.

B.)You imply that what necessitates moral responsibility is that we must be "choosing beings independently our self-determined motives." When we self-determine our motives what is the cause of us self-determining is it 1.)chance or 2.)Caused?
If our self-determination is the result of 1.) can we really have moral responsibility from your stand point?
If it is 2.)(caused) then what caused our self determination? If you say the self then what caused the self to self-determine the self? One cannot follow this internal self determination to infinity becuase we are in fact finite. I think we can both agree on that. It seems that your self-determination view is incoherent. I think that I have laid this out clearly.

You wrote that, "
If this is correct, it seems to suggest that what follows is Feinberg's "causally determined free will". Moral freedom like this, from the non-Calvinist's perpective, reduces to little more than an illusion. For me, it just isn't persuasive at all."

Peter this is only non-persuasive becuase you have an unargued assumption that for a person to be morally responsibile he must be able to choose both the good just as capably as evil. Peter I trust that my arguments above are true, coherant and have answered the impossibility of your position. Just becuase our choices are necessary does not follow that we cannot be held responsible for them.

You wrote, "Rather the Calvinist must explain the relations between primary cause and secondary cause--if they are going to use this as an apologetic--and demonstrate how, if the secondary cause is sufficiently caused ONLY by the dictates of Primary cause, how it is that the Primary cause is definitively NOT responsible for the secondary cause's effect."

God is ultimately responsible for the evil act that accured. However God is not to be charged as evil. The reason why is that Gods intentions for the act occuring were for a good purpose. God does use evil for Good purposes. The human that did the evil act is held accountable as evil becuase his intentions to commit the evil act were not Good. Intentions are a difference between God and the creature.

You also wrote, "Not to mention, Stephen, if God can cause us to commit evil without being held morally responsible Himself, how He could not also cause us to commit moral good without also getting the moral praise."

Your arguement seems to be this: That is if God can necessitate person B to do Sin and God is not considered as evil. Then How can God also cause person C to do good with getting the praise of C's doing.

1.) Person B motives are sinful therefore person B is considered sinful. Gods intentions for B's evil actions is Good. Also God necessitates B's evil passively.
2.) Person C motives are united with Christ therefore, Christ is actively sanctifying C presently at the right hand of the Father pleading the merit of his blood. Christ sanctify's us actively.

You wrote, " If so, I should be able to stand before God and praise myself for my faith and belief and good works I CAUSED AND GOD DIDN't. I, after all, am responsible rather than God."

Peter, this is the logical conclusion of the libertarian free will position. For you, while others were not, were smart enough to choose God. Suppose two people hear the Gospel, and the holy spirit is trying to bring then to a point for them to choose repentance. That day only one of the two walked away having chosen repentance. They both had the same ability, both had the same Holy Spirit trying His best to woo the people to repentance. What do we conclude one was smarter, becuase choosing repentance is the smartest thing to do! But one should get somewhat of the credit for his salvation becuase he did something that the other person did not do. Sure it was 99 percent Christ work but still that 1 percent part of choice was done by only one of the guys. It is not all of grace, mostly grace but some of it is something that we must do. You can say that faith is a gift but what is the condition for recieving any gift from God? Is in not faith? Can we recieve anything from God apart from Faith? Surely Not. So then the condition for recieving faith is faith (this arguement is worked out in greater detail of John Owens "Death of Death"). But this is an entirely unworkable senario. So then man has room to boast becuase man had some part, even if a tiny part, in his salvation. This is why i think that the calvinist/ noncalvinist debates are important. Also, think of the poor Holy Spirit that is try's but just not achieving His goal, which is for all to come to repentance. What does this make our Soveriegn God the Holy Spirit? But the Holy Spirit is not a failure becuase He is God. Furthermore we are born of the spirit not by our will (John 1:13)and for God purposes of our salvation we are saved from our will not by our will (romans 9:16) notice Paul doesnt write nations but masculine singular (Him)!

It is important to note that these question of why God is not held responsible are actually in the Bible. The very questions that your raising against my position Paul anticipated in Romans 9:19!

Instead of clarifying that Paul surely did not mean anything like comparing us as if we were to pots and God is the potter. Or if it is helpful by bringing in modern comparisons, we are robots and God is the robo computer programer. Paul accepts the supposed reducto! He does compare us to pots and God as a Potter! The problem that was raised in romans 9:19 about finding fault was anticipate becuase of God being a hardener in verse 18.

It seems that the non-calvinist position must do some very intense exegetical gymnastics to get around the clear teaching of romans 9.

Why try to defend a position of "self-determinism" that seems incoherant and a position that must work very hard to stifle romans 9? Why hold a positon that teaches salvation is all of grace but that grace is not suffcient to cause us to be saved? This is why it is very difficult for me to accept your position.

Brothers, I do very much respect you all. I believe that you men and women love the Lord very much. I believe that you men and women want to honor the Lord by believing the right things. I believe the Monergist position is the right position and I ask that you reconsider your beliefs and evaluate them. I hope by Gods grace that I can also evaluate mine.

Anyhow, I have written enough. I hope that you will find my arguments worth while. Hopefully you will again consider reformed theology as a right headed theology.
Blessings in Christ,



Thanks for your lengthy post, my brother. Wow. What can I say? Since, in your words, "the impossibility of [my] conception of moral responsibility" has been thoroughly demonstrated, Stephen, anything I suggest would necessarily be similar to arguing the existence of a pregnant man, would it not?

I will say a few brief things and then close shop here and move on to other projects: first, Stephen, you are very engaging and I appreciate your spirit in dialoge. Continue it. Too much it happens that simply non-Christian temperments prevail in discussions such as these.

Second, pertaining to the dialog itself, one helpful thing would be to limit your responses to the questions at hand. I think if you'll scan your comments, you'll discover a whole crop of new issues into play that you assume are settled but do not help your point.

The last post, you mentioned Mongerism and Romans 9, for example, which are not relevate whatsoever to the issue not to mention the continuing debate about both.

As for the "impossibility" of my position on free will, I suggest, Stephen, that you put your demonstration of such in proper form and submit it to any number of jorunals of philosophy. I'm quite sure almost all of them would be interested in your decimation of an entire school of thinking.

Indeed, I suggest you contact Alvin Plantinga himself and give him the heads up before you do. I'd bet a cup of Starbucks he'd want a copy of the undergraduate paper that overturned his masterful thesis which the most learned philosophers of today have failed to do.:)

Have a great day, Stephen. With that, I am...



The fundamental flaw in your citation of John Calvin here lies in your construal of the word "allow" by Sproul and equivalent to the word "permission/permit" in Calvin, but, if you'd bother to actually look at the background here and Protestant Scholasticism of that period, you'd find that what is being argued here is a denial of "bare" permission, eg. prescience. Indeed, elsewhere, Calvin expressly tells us that this is what he has in mind. That is, the Anabaptists, the Catholic Thomists, and the Arminians after them referred to the permission of God in "bare" terms, and Augustine embraced it, but put it through his privation theory as well. The Reformed unianimously agreed that God permits but not in a "bare" fashion; "permission" is contrued in Reformed theology as a whole as nothing less than effacious permission.

I would further add here that if you construe Calvin as a supralapsarian overall,which his detractors at the time construed of him themselves, then this cuts in a manner opposed to the "Calvin was not a Calvinist" thesis which elsewhere on this blog you have supported, so in going that direction, you may want to consider that.

As to his hard determinism, this comes as no surprise, but, one more time for the benefit of all, Calvin is not the sine qua non of Calvinism, rather, you have to contend with Bucer, Beza, Zwingli, Gomarus, Vermigli, Zanchi, Olevian, and Hyperius, and that's just for starters. Then you have to contend with the classic confessions which favor infralapsarianism.

What you've done here is equate the language of determinism with the language of causality in Calvin, but Calvin distinguishes between the types of causality in Aristotle. So, which of those causes does Calvin mean here? Does he mean that God's will is the instrumental cause? efficient cause? final cause? formal cause? What would the "determinative" cause be in Aristotlean categories? Is God the remote or proximate cause?

In fact, in the portion of Calvin you cite, he refers us elsewhere in the Institutes. And there we find Calvin explaining himself quite clearly, ergo, I cannot for the life of me understand how you can say this:

First, from my perspective, I cannot accept, from your reading, Stephen, that Calvin meant "permission" in any other way than a straight-forward reading of it. To argue that he and Sproul somehow "agree" in formal logical categories seems fantastic to me.

You said you took a course in Calvin, but have you really interacted with Protestant Scholasticism as a complete phenomenon? Have you interacted with the work of, say, Richard Mueller, W. Robert Godfrey, R.Scott Clark, Carl Trueman,John Farthing, etc.?

1. You're pouring a post-Scholastic understanding of the term into it, but what did "permission" mean in the Scholastic context? What does Reformed theology mean by the term "bare permission," which it denies in the confessions?

2. Calvin tells us exactly what he means, and he tells us in the statement you cited from 1.18 that he is summarizing statements addressed in Book 2 and in 1.16.

Here are a few selections from Book 2.

Those whom the
Lord favours not with the direction of his Spirit, he, by a righteous judgment, consigns to the agency
of Satan. Wherefore, the Apostle says, that the god of this world has blinded the minds of them
which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should
shine into them. And, in another passage, he describes the devil as the spirit that now worketh
in the children of disobedience, (Eph. 2:2). The blinding of the wicked, and all the iniquities
consequent upon it, are called the works of Satan; works the cause of which is not to be Sought in
anything external to the will of man, in which the root of the evil lies, and in which the foundation
of Satans kingdom, in other words, sin, is fixed.

The nature of the divine agency in such cases is very different. For the purpose of illustration,
let us refer to the calamities brought upon holy Job by the Chaldeans. They having slain his
shepherds, carry off his flocks. The wickedness of their deed is manifest,17 168 as is also the hand
of Satan, who, as the history informs us, was the instigator of the whole. Job, however, recognises
it as the work of God, saying, that what the Chaldeans had plundered, the Lord had taken away.
How can we attribute the same work to God, to Satan, and to man, without either excusing Satan
by the interference of God, or making God the author of the crime? This is easily done, if we look
first to the end, and then to the mode of acting. The Lord designs to exercise the patience of his
servant by adversity; Satans plan is to drive him to despair; while the Chaldeans are bent on making
unlawful gain by plunder. Such diversity of purpose makes a wide distinction in the act. In the
mode there is not less difference. The Lord permits Satan to afflict his servant; and the Chaldeans,
who had been chosen as the ministers to execute the deed, he hands over to the impulses of Satan,
who, pricking on the already depraved Chaldeans with his poisoned darts, instigates them to commit
the crime. They rush furiously on to the unrighteous deed, and become its guilty perpetrators. Here
Satan is properly said to act in the reprobate, over whom he exercises his sway, which is that of
wickedness. God also is said to act in his own way; because even Satan when he is the instrument
of divine wrath, is completely under the command of God, who turns him as he will in the execution
of his just judgments. I say nothing here of the universal agency of God, which, as it sustains all
the creatures, also gives them all their power of acting. I am now speaking only of that special
agency which is apparent in every act. We thus see that there is no inconsistency in attributing the
same act to God, to Satan, and to man, while, from the difference in the end and mode of action,
the spotless righteousness of God shines forth at the same time that the iniquity of Satan and of
man is manifested in all its deformity.

--So, here, we have the language of permission in an Augustinian sense used by Calvin himself. Now, if we follow your reasoning, we have Calvin opposing divine "permission" and yet asserting divine "permission." Either (a) Calvin contradicted himself, or (b) he has a particular definition in mind when denying bare permission and affirming that God permits the agency of Satan to a particular end and governs the wills of men in certain manner.

Note carefully, as I pointed out above, his use of the term "bare permission" in the text you quoted. What does this mean?

1. In Reformed polemics of that era, this term comes up frequently and appeared again in the next century in response to the Remonstrants.

2. For example the WCF: "The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angles and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding (Latin: limitatio), and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends'" (V, 4). (I'd add that Sproul adheres to the WCF, so to interpret him otherwise seems off the mark.)

In denying "permission" Calvin tells us that he has in mind mere also prescience and something akin to absolute inactivity, which, I might add, is the meaning that non-Reformed/Lutheran Thomists, Anabaptists, and, later, Arminians, invested in the term "permission" in the way they elucidated the fall. Let us not forget that the Arminian order of decres is: Creation, Permission of Fall, Atonement, Election of all who believe, General Call.

Calvin states:

Ancient writers sometimes manifest a superstitious dread of making a simple confession of
the truth in this matter, from a fear of furnishing impiety with a handle for speaking irreverently
of the works of God. While I embrace such soberness with all my heart, I cannot see the least danger in simply holding what Scripture delivers. when Augustine was not always free from this superstition, as when he says, that blinding and hardening have respect not to the operation of God, but toprescience (Lib. de Predestina. et Gratia).

-So, right here, Calvin explicitly tells us what he has in mind is prescience first. Then he deals with "permission."

And Augustine himself, in his book against Julian,17 169 contends at length that sins are
manifestations not merely of divine permission or patience, but also of divine power, that thus
former sins may be punished. In like manner, what is said of permission is too weak to stand.

What is "permission?" Well, for that, we need to track back to 1.16.

For which reason, he (Augustine) also excludes the
contingency which depends on human will, maintaining a little further on, in clearer terms, that no
cause must be sought for but the will of God. When he uses the term permission, the meaning which
he attaches to it will best appear from a single passage (De Trinity. lib. 3 cap. 4), where he proves
that the will of God is the supreme and primary cause of all things, because nothing happens without
his order or permission. He certainly does not figure God sitting idly in a watch-tower, when he
chooses to permit anything.

--In short, the idea of "permission" that Calvin views as "bare" (as is the view of other Reformed theologians) is the idea of God watching in Watchtower. He uses the term "bare" three times in 1.18, so this should be a signal to you that he has something particular in mind. "Bare" permission like that is not enough, for "permission" is to be construed as nothing less than the foreordination of God and effacious. See, for example, John Frame, The Doctrine of God.

This is the "bare permission" of the section you quoted. He is stating that the "permission" of God's decree is nothing less than the effacious working of His will. It is not God Himself putting fresh evil into means hearts by His direct agency. It is, however, effacious as a means to the ordained end. It is not the willing of possibility, as some Arminians have argued, it is the actual effacious will of God and work by a mode of agency; nor is it mere prescience.

Of the modes of agency, Calvin gives two, and, in relation to Pharaoh, he opts for one of the two. God can simply withdraw His constraining presence or he can give a man over to the agency of Satan. Calvin, in this case, opts for the second.

In other words, if by "permission" one means, "God chose not to soften Pharaoh's heart," this is not enough if (a) "bare" as if God left him and hoped for the best, and (b) it does not do justice to the text, for here, it is not enough, "For
if they are hardened and turned, they are purposely bent to the very end in view." In short, the permission that Reformed theologians assert is just this, that there is a mode of operation in view that is more than merely "not softening" and less than putting fresh evil in men's hearts. Likewise it is more than prescience and more than "bare" permission. It has a definite end in mind, and is often judicial in nature.

Calvin tells us how, in his view, God hardens in this way:

We, therefore, hold that there are two methods in
which God may so act. When his light is taken away, nothing remains but blindness and darkness: when his Spirit is taken away, our hearts become hard as stones: when his guidance is withdrawn, we immediately turn from the right path: and hence he is properly said to incline, harden, and blind
those whom he deprives of the faculty of seeing, obeying, and rightly executing. The second method, which comes much nearer to the exact meaning of the words, is when executing his judgments by
Satan as the minister of his anger, God both directs mens counsels, and excites their wills, and regulates their efforts as he pleases. Thus when Moses relates that Simon, king of the Amorites,
did not give the Israelites a passage, because the Lord had hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, he immediately adds the purpose which God had in viewviz. that he might deliver
him into their hand (Deut. 2:30). As God had resolved to destroy him, the hardening of his heart
was the divine preparation for his ruin.

Notice he talks about God withdrawing His Spirit or giving a man over to Satan. In this latter instance, which he adopts for Pharaoh, we have Calvin employing the classic distinction between a necessary and sufficient condition, or, in other language, distinguishing between remote and proximate causality, a classic Scholastic category. Indeed, we find that this is often judicial.

He says:

In accordance with the former methods it seems to be said, The law shall perish from
the priests and counsel from the ancients. He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them
to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. Again O Lord, why hast thou made us to err
from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? These passages rather indicate what men
become when God deserts them, than what the nature of his agency is when he works in them. But
there are other passages which go farther, such as those concerning the hardening of Pharaoh: I
will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. The same thing is afterwards repeated in
stronger terms. Did he harden his heart by not softening it? This is, indeed, true; but he did something
more: he gave it in charge to Satan to confirm him in his obstinacy.

How does Sproul view "permission." Is it prescience? Is it "bare" permission? No, for he denies "bare permission." What he says is that God gives him over to his sin and at the same time this executes a particular end. In light of what Calvin here writes, how is this out of synch with Calvin? Is he saying God puts fresh evil in men's hearts, which Sproul denies? No. Is he The main difference then is not Sproul's view of what constitutes permission but the specific means God used to harden Pharaoh. Sproul opts for the withdrawing of God's Spirit. Calvin opts for giving him over to Satan. In both, however, effacious permission (the classic Reformed meaning) is in view. There is no substantive contradiction here.


Ah, and one more thing for the gentleman who thinks of Calvin as a hard determinist. The reason the attribution of hard determinism to Calvin is not a surprise to Calvinists is due to the work of Farley. However, the great majority of Calvinists do not construe him as a hard determinist. Rather, they construe him as a soft-determinist. See, for example, John Frame's review of Farley's book on Divine Providence. Note also that one of the concerns of the opponents of Calvin was their contrual of him in what we today call supralapsarian terms. Not all supras are hard determinists.



Thank you for dropping by. Gee, this thread is so old, I'd almost forgot. I do remember Stephen & I having a great conversation. He surely is a forminable person with whom to dialog and is well versed in philospphy and scripture, I fully admit.

And, fortunately,from the way I remember it, while both of us understood very well what each other was writing, we just never came to see eye to eye.

The problem I gain from your post, Gene, is I haven't the slightest idea what you just wrote. You seem to bring up issues so foreign to the main point, I had to wonder if you were attempting to respond to a comment I made to Stephen or the post I originally penned.

I do not want to be unkind, but about the only thing I gained as I tried to decipher it was that you do not agree with me. Am I correct?

One thing that would assist me and others, I presume, would be to attempt to write both shorter and more precise criticisms. My post, Gene, was about 1500 words. Your comment was 2500 words--with a little trailer you forget to mention in the 2500 words, making the total 2600! Does that not strike you as strange, my Brother?

By the way, Arminius also held the "classic reformed view." Come back again Gene. Perhaps we can dialog next time. Grace. With that, I am ...


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