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Jun 17, 2014

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Scott Shaver

SBC Fundamentalists of the 3:16CONNECT version, waving the banner of Hobbs insisting the apology of Patterson regarding SWBTS admission of Muslim on scholarship to be pure and without gall...."from a heart of evangelism".

SBC Fundamentalists of the "reform" version, waving the banners of Calvin and dead seminary presidents comparing the apology of Patterson to a declaratio
Peace on the horizon? More like "Hold my beer and watch this!"

Honestly at this point: What is a modern day SBC "traditionalist" and when, prior to the threat of losing denominational control, did they ever really gravitate primarily toward the "paradoxical option in Baptist thinking concerning God's soverignty and human free will?"

Thought the primary issue was sufficiency ("inerrancy") of Scripture?

Scott Shaver

correction to previous post: SBC Fundamentalists of the "reform" version calling the apology of Patterson a "declaration of war."

Scott Shaver

Here's a suggested name change worthy of consideration?

IFFP = International Federation of Fundamentalist Protestants

BaptistLite perhaps?

peter lumpkins

Thanks Scott.

The next time a loony-tune comment--e.g. http://goo.gl/alqUu9 -- is made at SBCV about either a) my not allowing dissent with which I profoundly disagree (while simultaneously thinking a rebuttal is not necessarily in order); or, b) names my site as presumably representing all that is wrong with Christian incivility, I'll think of you, my friend. :^)

With that, I am...
Peter

P.S. by the way, here's my response to the source of the loony-tune comment - http://goo.gl/u6dquC

Johnathan Pritchett

Well, I think Western theological discussions are losing in general because in theological circles, language and the ability to convey meaning, both gifts from God, is being trampled under foot.

Consider the word sovereignty. It simply means the status of authority or rule. Now, consider free will. Free will is the volitional capabilities with respect to human anthropology.

My contention is that when we juxtapose these two things, we are failing in our ability to use language and communicate. It makes no more sense to say "sovereignty versus free will" than it does to say "apples versus concrete."

God is, by definition of being Creator, maximally sovereign over all creation. This says nothing about the issue of free will in and of itself.

The issue is merely misplaced. The question is whether or not God is sovereign over a deterministic creation or a creation with libertarian freedom.

NOTE: Having libertarian free will, since it is an issue with respect to volition and human anthropology, says nothing about creatures being GOVERNED or UNGOVERNED. Certainly, when a Sovereign rules over all creation, humans are governed regardless of whether or not they are determined or have libertarian freedom.

Introducing "compatiblism" does not do any good, since that is simply determinism, and sensible compatiblists admit this.

Thus, the only meaningful way to juxtapose the issue is "determinism versus free will" and free will being libertarian free will, since the redefinition of free will by compatiblists is not free will in any meaningful sense of what is normally meant by free will. Compatiblism gets only one horn of a two horn definition. I agree with compatiblists that freedom with respect to volition does, on one horn, mean to do something without external constraint or coercion (though implanted, determined desires count as such in my view). However, this fails to account for the second horn, which is the ability to choose otherwise, or rather, choose among options.

The problem with mystery is the tendency of positing it where it need not be posited. These issues can be examined, and when contradictions are detected, fouling them off as not actual contradictions simply won't do. I agree with you Peter, that this is too problematic, however attractive to people it may be. I agree that the objections to this option are too convincing to ignore.

I like mystery, and am all for it. The Bible has plenty of mysteries contained to enliven our imagination when thinking about God. This particular issue is not among them.

But positing mystery here is problematic because the assumption that because we are talking religious matters means we can find escape hatches from logic is found wanting. As C.S. Lewis once pointed out, nonsense does not stop being nonsense because we are talking about God. I would add, talking about theology, religion, etc.

We need to once again reclaim language, words, and the ability to communicate. None of us on either side of this issue are postmodernists after all. James Barr, liberal he may be, rightly decried in "The Semantics of Biblical Language" the problem of over-embellishing "Bible words," so to speak. Words can't mean something new just because God is the subject or because they are in the Bible. As Thomas Edgar pointed out in his article "THE MEANING OF PROGINWSKW" with respect to foreknowledge, there is no basis for doing so. I think their concerns go across the board with respect to all matters of theology and the big Bible words (justification, election, grace, predestination, etc.)

When we go down that path of redefining terms that already have meaning, it gives way to all manner of invention and trouble with respect to God and the Bible. Not to mention, such activities renders words useless, and we are people with a Book, which contains words. :)

Such is the case with the word "sovereignty" since the word does not mean, nor entail, nor imply determinism qua determinism. This is true even when God is the subject.

Whenever a Calvinist says "I believe God is absolutely sovereign," I quickly want to know if all they really mean to say is that "the universe is deterministic." If that is the case, then at best, the Calvinist has committed a linguistic error redefining established terms and loading it with too much freight when there are other words to use to state what was intended to be stated that do not muddle the issue. At worst, the Calvinist has committed idolatry, since by saying "God is sovereign," that basically only means at the time they said it that "the universe is deterministic." Hence, the Calvinist has used language about God, and attributed it to something made by God (i.e. creation)...the very definition of idolatry. Such happens when ideas about God are placed above God himself. Yes, theology schemes can become an idols too.

God is absolutely sovereign by definition, and can't be more sovereign then the maximal sovereignty. This is all why keeping terms to mean what they mean is vitally important.

The issue is simply "determinism versus free will" and nothing more. The rest is just blowing smoke to get around the basic issue.

If traditionalists are losing, it is because they have been willing participants in the confusion of language and meaning, and playing contra-theology with modifications to the bad presuppositions and premises and definitions of their Calvinist interlocutors. That is what Arminians do (it was a contra-theology from the beginning), and why I am ultimately not one.

Bill Mac

I think I agree with Jonathan. Even as a Calvinist I've never been comfortable with the word deterministic. Free will really is free, within the constraints of our nature. I am free to eat brussell sprouts but I am not free to like them, since my nature doesn't seem to allow it.

I think God can and does determine some things, and I don't think our desires are off-limits to Him, but I hardly see the need for him to determine everything (actively). Sovereignty and determinism are different things.

Carl Peterson

"For them, free will means that when a decision arises which calls for action, one chooses what one most desires apart from any form of external compulsion."

When does one not chose what they desire? Even under compulsion this seems to be true unless choice is completely taken away.

For instance I want to have mexican for dinner. My wife wants Chinese. I choose to get Chinese. Why? Because I desire my wife's happiness above my desire to have mexican food. So I did what I desired.

Let's throw out choices made under compulsion. Isn't choice determined by desires? I choose based upon what I desire most. If I have free will then I will still make my choice based upon what I desire most.

So if the Reformed view of Total Depravity is correct then even with free will I would choose against God until I am no longer totally depraved (God gives me some type of grace to change my desires).

I guess I do not see the problem with the Reformed definition of Free will. It seems like to me the real problem comes when discussing Total depravity. Are the natural man's desires against God until God intervenes? If so does God intervene by regenerating the individual prior to saving faith and conversion? Or does God intervene by giving man enough grace to change man's desires enough so he can desire God or not desire God (like some sort of 50/50 proposition, I can't see how this exist in the real world).

Could it be that the real question is if man is if man is depraved or not? And if so How? And what is God's fix for it? I think the whole Calvinism vs. Traditional Baptist argument hinges around what our theology guided by the interpretation of scripture states about Total Depravity and unconditional Election. All the rest fall into place after that.

Scott Shaver

Jonathan Pritchett

Your meticulous and lengthy response not only has me scratching my head, but also serves as Exhibit "A", illustrating the absolute madness currently ongoing between SBC Fundamentalists and Neo-Calvinist Fundamentalists (the only 2 voices remaining in what's left of a splintered and declining denominational apparatus.

As for SBC Voices and Muschany comments, Pete Lumpkins, consider them Exhibit "B" for today's case studies my friend.

SBCVoices is a low-budget version of BaptistPress. Certainly not an objective or even inclusive forum for discussion of Baptist issues from either historical or theological perspectives.

The site is exactly what the name implies, "SBCVoices"...a platform show-casing the piercing logic and spirituality of SBC 1st and 2nd vice presidents/pastors who have no other mechanical role within the apparatus outside of their closed and heavily moderated "discussion" forums in the blogosphere.

Back to Pritchett who comments "If Traditionalists are losing, it's becaue they have been willing participants in the confusion of language and meaning."

He misses the point. Most rank and file Southern Baptists got lost in the verbiage of the CR wars. Most of them don't understand the meaning of the new lables and most of them don't care any more who wins or loses.

It's irrelevant to where they find themselves having to live life on a daily basis.

Lydia

"The issue is simply "determinism versus free will" and nothing more. The rest is just blowing smoke to get around the basic issue.

If traditionalists are losing, it is because they have been willing participants in the confusion of language and meaning, and playing contra-theology with modifications to the bad presuppositions and premises and definitions of their Calvinist interlocutors. That is what Arminians do (it was a contra-theology from the beginning), and why I am ultimately not one. "

Great comment, Johnathan. Totally agree. And what I have seen is people allow the debate to be framed for them. Dialogue is a frustrating process when we have to stop and ask for definitions of familiar words. But it is necessary.

It has reminded me of some brutal history where questions are framed for people: Do you not believe Stalin is the great father of our nation? You could be sent to Siberia if you did not answer that one correctly. Well, Stalin was the metaphorical "father of the nation" but what does "father" really mean in practical application?

"Whenever a Calvinist says "I believe God is absolutely sovereign," I quickly want to know if all they really mean to say is that "the universe is deterministic.""

The statement is using a tactic called "loaded language". Although I don't think most of them realize that. They are simply saying what they have been taught without thinking it through in most cases. ( Some people at my church say this sort of thing because they are infatuated with some NC gurus. And I ask politely if they are determinists. They say, huh? And from there we go)

Every movement attempts to "redefine" words. Ever read translations of German nationalistic songs? They often contain the word "Liberty" while at the same time are about determinism. Language is powerful so we must make sure we are defining words in the same way.

Not only has Sovereignty been redefined but so has "grace".

Truth this, unity will always be frustrated in this situation when people are not even speaking the same language.

peter lumpkins

If I'm understanding correctly, Johnathan, you seem to be saying using "sovereignty" and "free will" in a conflicting sense fails to communicate because language and ability to convey meaning are being trampled under foot in our discussions--at least in the West. While I agree language can sometimes be the culprit barring true understanding, I fail to see your overall point toward the issue I raised. Are you reducing the ancient question over determinism and free will to a matter of mere lexical definitions? I agree with you the dictionary definition of 'sovereignty' merely indicates the status of authority or rule. But that most certainly is not the way theologians and philosophers have employed the term. Instead it comes with slightly more baggage than a lexical definition bears and indeed it must. Standard usage usually equates--or almost so--the terms "predestination," "divine sovereignty," and "determinism" as little less, if any, than synonymous. For example, take the well-worn book by Zondervan, "Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty & Human Freedom." Here the debate is framed by equating predestination and divine sovereignty. Endless examples could be summoned as I'm sure you're aware.  I may be altogether missing your point here, but to assign as meaningless communication the debate between sovereignty and free will based upon lexical definitions I cannot follow.

I think also neither Calvinist nor Arminian (Molinist??) would easily agree with your assertion that God's maximal sovereignty "says nothing about the issue of free will in and of itself." Isn't free will included within and under God's maximal sovereignty? Granted human free will is first and foremost about "volitional capabilities with respect to human anthropology" as is sovereignty first and foremost indicative of a Sovereign Creator.  But isn't human anthropology also included within and therefore subject to God's maximal sovereignty? If so, how might we conclude that sovereignty says nothing about free will in and of itself? Indeed it's the very something which strikes the heart of the debate between sovereignty and free will spawning it on century after century.       

peter lumpkins

Bill Mac,

My thoughts to Johnathan might touch upon the point you raised...

peter lumpkins

Johnathan,

If I may, without being perceived as "piling on" so to speak, you boldly conclude: 'The issue is simply "determinism versus free will" and nothing more. The rest is just blowing smoke to get around the basic issue.'

If the issue is as you describe it--determinism versus free will--with all other notions as "just blowing smoke," then it seems to follow philosophy alone should settle the debate since the issue has just been reduced to philosophical notions framed exclusively in philosophical categories.

What I hear being proposed is, Trads should climb into the intellectual-philosophical arena and slug it out with the philosophical determinists (i.e. Calvinists) with their philosophical gloves on. If that's the proposal, I vote for men like Richard Fuller who in essence said, "To hell with their philosophy. I'm going with the Bible."

With that, I am...
Peter

Lydia

"If that's the proposal, I vote for men like Richard Fuller who in essence said, "To hell with their philosophy. I'm going with the Bible."

But Peter, do we not end up in the same place with the same questions as people tend to read scripture with the determinist or free will filter?

Bill Mac

Perhaps what Jonathan means is that Sovereignty does not tell us whether free will actually exists. If it does, then of course it does fall within the bounds of God's sovereignty, but there are no doubt people who believe God is sovereign to the point where any perceived free will is just an illusion.

Bill Mac

And of course we have both sides laying claim, as if non-Calvinists can't believe in sovereignty and Calvinists can't believe in free-will.

peter lumpkins

Lydia,

That's a fair question. I'm questioning whether one should raise the same type of questions couched within the same categories. In this particular discussion, philosophical questions driven by philosophical disciplines like philosophy of religion, for example, are purported to be the only question that matters. All else, if I'm not skewing what I'm hearing (I sincerely hope not), is "just blowing smoke."

My present tendency is--and honestly, I'm neither fully convinced nor unopen to correction on this but actually covet it--to believe it's misguided at best to expect to "win" the debate with aggressive Calvinists in the SBC by climbing in the ring and beating the intellectual tar out of them philosophically. Not that it cannot be done. Indeterminist philosophers are every bit as smart and logical and studied as any determinist philosopher. Nor should we be hesitant to speak philosophically when the need arises.

My point is, philosophical argumentation will never, ever, EVER be absolutely decided in this world. Till Jesus comes there'll be determinists and indeterminists.

Consequently, Trads' best hope in "winning" over aggressive Calvinists in the SBC is to beat them not philosophically but exegetically through a robust thoroughly developed historico-grammatical interpretation of Scripture.

And, note what Fuller said concerning biblical interpretation. He indicated biblical revelation speaks of God's sovereignty and human free will and does so "without even noticing the inscrutable difficulty and seemingly palpable contradiction by which our intellects are bewildered." In other words, Scripture never addresses the questions philosophy raises either logically or linguistically (at least on this issue). Instead the questions arise from philosophy of religion and Christian apologetic methodology (i.e. determinism vs free will).

Could it be argued, then, that we have no right to impose questions upon the biblical authors that they never intended to fully answer? Even more, could it similarly be argued we surely have no hermeneutical right to catapult philosophical questions to the top of the food chain so far as significance is concerned?

I don't have studied answers to these questions but I think they're surely worth thinking through before unflinchingly settling on a particular philosophical solution. That's why also I think some Trads may be overlooking a viable option by spurning solutions like Fuller, Schaeffer, and more recently and popularly, W.A. Criswell embraced.

Max

Lydia writes "... unity will always be frustrated in this situation when people are not even speaking the same language."

Lydia, a Charles Finney quote comes to mind when I think of your words:

"It is evident that many more Churches need to be divided. How many there are that hold together, and yet do no good, for the simple reason that they are not sufficiently agreed. They do not think alike, nor feel alike ... and while this is so, they never can work together. Unless they can be brought to such a change of views and feelings as will unite them, they are only a hindrance to each other and to the work of God. In many cases they see and feel that this is so, and yet they keep together, conscientiously, for fear that a division should dishonor religion, when in fact the division that now exists may be making religion a by-word and a reproach. Far better would it be if they would agree to divide amicably, like Abraham and Lot. 'If thou will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, I will go to the left.' Let them separate, and each party work in its own way; and they may both enjoy the blessing." (Charles G. Finney, Revivals of Religion, Lecture XVI)

Perhaps the most viable option for Southern Baptists at this juncture, lest we become a by-word and a reproach (or are we there already?).

Scott Shaver

Love those last insights Pete.

Exalting philosophy, theology and education as issues of primary significance in the apprehension of Christian spirituality creates a mouse in the running wheel.

Why can we not, under The Spirit's leadership, refuse to bow at either the altar of education/philosophy or the altar of ignorance?

Lydia

"Could it be argued, then, that we have no right to impose questions upon the biblical authors that they never intended to fully answer? Even more, could it similarly be argued we surely have no hermeneutical right to catapult philosophical questions to the top of the food chain so far as significance is concerned?"

That is a good point and I agree to a point. But not sure it is going away. They are questions for our times. It is as if it is even the 1800's where we had freedom to delve into such questions but information was at a premium. And one only had access to answers from a priest or pastor not to mention the time to even ponder such things as metaphysics and philosophy outside academia. They had to plant and harvest the corn. :o)

The explosion of information at our fingertips is going to keep such questions and debates alive. As far as determinism /free will goes, my question is how do we view God? Do we view Him as revealed in Jesus Christ? If yes, then perhaps we are reading Him in the OT through post Enlightenment eyes and ignoring the pagan backdrop. There is your historical part. :o)

Lydia

Max,

Thanks for quoting Finney. The more I read about the man himself, the more I like him even though his style might not match my comfort level. I think he gets an unfair bad rap from the YRR/NC movement. His committment to Oberlin college (and the Abolitionist movement) which sought to educate both blacks and women at a time it was unheard of, gives him a special place in my heart. Those times were not easy for Abolitionists who put their money where their mouth was. Not even in the North.

Max

"I think he gets an unfair bad rap from the YRR/NC movement."

No doubt about it Lydia. The New Calvinists turn a deaf ear to Finney's wisdom because they don't agree with his soteriology nor his methodology (e.g., the unpardonable sins of the altar call and sinner's prayer). This agree to disagree, go along to get along, make room for everybody under the big tent stance is a major distraction to SBC's Great Commission effort.

Max

Lydia - in light of the proliferation of the New Calvinism movement within SBC, I think Finney would say something today like "If you want to be a Presbyterian, be one ... but let the Baptists be Baptists." Distinctly different views on God's plan of salvation should be enough for us to divide ... amicably, if possible.

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