Test Case for Libertarian Free Will

As I was reading in the book of Exodus this morning, I came across a couple of verses that provoked some reflection on the debate about the nature of human freedom. After defining the Arminian view of human freedom, I’ll share the verses and throw out a question for discussion.

Calvinists and Arminians have debated the nature of free will for centuries. While mainstream Calvinists tend to hold to a compatibalist view of the will, Arminians have typically gravitated toward a libertarian view. Bruce Ware defines the libertarian view as follows:

“This conception of freedom proposes that a moral agent is free so long as, for whatever choice he makes, he could have chosen differently. That is, given all the conditions that are true of the situation in which he makes his choice, the agent is free so long as he could have chosen differently within that identical situation in which he makes the choice.” –God’s Lesser Glory, pp. 34-35

Arminians typically argue that there can be no moral responsibility if human will is not free in the sense defined above.

Exodus 3 is the narrative of the burning bush in which God commissions Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses is skeptical both of his ability to convince the Israelites to follow him and of his chances of getting Pharoah to listen. So God makes two predictions to Moses:

“And [the Israelites] will pay heed to what you say . . . But I know that the King of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion” (Exodus 3:18-19).

So God makes two predictions concerning the actions of free moral agents. (1) The Israelites will choose to follow Moses. (2) Pharoah will choose to reject Moses’ directives. God infallibly predicts these choices well in advance of their actual occurrence.

Here is my question for discussion. Were the Israelites and Pharoah free to choose other than what they did? To put it another way, were the Israelites and Pharoah free to choose other than what God infallibly predicted they would choose?

If you answer yes, do you also believe that God’s prediction could have turned out to be incorrect?

If you answer no, do you really believe that human will is free?

46 Responses to Test Case for Libertarian Free Will

  1. Nick February 20, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Of course the Israelites and Pharoah could have chosen differently than what God had said, He just knew they wouldn’t.

    To put it another way, just because God foreknows that I will do X, it’s doesn’t mean that I cannot do otherwise, only that I shall not do otherwise.

  2. Denny Burk February 20, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    Nick, so how do you answer the question as posed? Were the Israelites and Pharoah free to choose other than what God infallibly predicted they would choose?

  3. Nick February 20, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    Yes, they could have. God just knew that they wouldn’t. He foresaw what they would freely choose to do in that scenario.

  4. Tom Fuerst February 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    I enter this discussion against my own good judgment, knowing how conversations on this page generally turn polemical and ungodly. But I will try to begin the conversation in a non-polemical and hopefully gentle tone…

    The moral freedom in Ph.’s life is not just a matter of this particular decision. He has freely been choosing against divine revelation all his life.

    If his freedom is restricted, it is by his own choice of sin and his own fight against ultimate reality (Yahweh).

    By both knowing what Ph. will do, and by hardening Ph.’s heart, Yahweh is not sovereignly electing Ph. to damnation, He is GIVING PH. WHAT HE ALREADY WANTED…that is, what he has freely chosen so many times before. Ph. expresses his free will in rebellion and Yahweh empowers him to live in free/full rebellion so as to display Yahweh’s glory more fully.

    Yahweh knows the darkness of Ph.’s heart better than Ph. himself does. So for Yahweh to say that means that he knows it will not/could not be any other way. (Unlike Open Theists, Arminians do not confuse foreknowledge/determination.)

    So is Ph. responsible even though God knew? Yes, of course…but this is b/c Yahweh knew, but DIDN’T dictate! Ph. is responsible for leading his life in such rebellion that when he comes face to face with Yahweh, he completely hates him and has disdain for Him. He has forged his own character in such a way that he has limited his own options/freedom.

    Could Ph. have chosen differently? Yes and no. Yes, he was free in a philosophical sense to choose differently. But no, God knew his character was only going to press on in the direction of rebellion.

    Remember, too, that Arminians are not Pelagian. Arminians hold to total depravity. They just believe that God has overcome it with prevenient grace…allowing the sinner the freedom to choose or reject Him. Once the sinner has made that choice, God may give them over to their sin…thus, knowing and even empowering them to rebel so that He might display his glory and power.

    Ph. rejected natural revelation and prevenient grace a long time before the Exodus narrative. So this is just the natural outworking of his own sinfulness and Yahweh’s wrath.

    Okay, probably rambling now. Hope this was gentle, non-polemical, and thoughtful.

  5. Tom Fuerst February 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    BTW – I’m not saying Ware’s definition was unfair or anything. I just think it’s a bit suspect to quote the opposition’s definition of someone else’s terminology. There are many great and succinct definitions of Libertarian Freedom out there by Arminians, it might have been better to choose one of those…just so the we can hear it from the proverbial horses mouth.
    Cheers.

  6. Matt Svoboda February 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    If God infallibly predicts anything I don’t see how one can say that a person can do anything that God didn’t infallibly predict.

    In my mind, to say they could, but never would is almost a cop out. Why would they never? Because they can’t! Because God INFALLIBLY predicted it to be so.

    I will keep thinking on it, but it doesn’t jive with me. It seems to contradict when a person says that the Israelites could of chosen to do differently than God predicted. Yet, if you gave them the option 1 billion times they would choose what God predicted 1 billion times. Hmm… It seems that indeed they had no other REAL choice.

  7. Tom Fuerst February 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Matt,
    Thanks for the response. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep conversing (my family is coming to town), but here’s my initial response to you, brother…

    I don’t think it’s a cop out. I think it’s nuance. There’s a difference, me thinks.

    The nuance is that divine prediction (your words) is not the same thing as divine dictation. There are many versions of this ‘nuance’ as espoused by Arminians (some call it Middle Knowledge, others take a different route). But when we get down to the grind of philosophical discussions, there must be nuance…and I think that’s what Nick and I are saying.

    Also, I find it interesting that you say ‘they had no other real choice.’ I find it interesting b/c that’s exactly the complaint Arminians have against Soft-determinism/Compatibilism…that it is NOT a real choice. But in saying that, you actually abandon Compatibilistic freedom which maintains (somehow and for some reason) that they DID make a real choice.

    In conclusion, then, 2 things: 1. I think you need to see nuance (maybe even paradox) in the Arminian position as I stated it, and 2. I think you’ll want to watch the nuances of your own philo-theological rhetoric to make sure that you’re framing your position correctly.

    I’ll check this over the next little bit, but as I said, I’ve got to prepare for in-laws.

    Pax Christi.

  8. Tom Fuerst February 20, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Oh, and I’d like to add one more ‘nuance’ to the discussion before I can’t contribute anymore…

    For Arminians, the issue is not God’s sovereignty…that is, what God CAN or CANNOT do. The question for Arminians is HOW God designed his creation.

    Sure, God COULD HAVE created a world where He sovereignly dictates all decisions. But did he? Calvinists say yes, Arminians say no.

    But Arminians also hold that b/c God is sovereign, and still is the ruler of his creation, he can break in and sovereignly dictate certain things (all things if he wanted!), but that is NOT the norm, as it is in Calvinism.

    So, even if God did sovereignly dictate Ph.’s decision, that still could fall within an Arminian framework. It would not be the norm of how God always works with his creation, but it is not entirely foreign either.

    Our ultimate agenda is not the protection of free will (as is so often accused)as an end in itself. We are merely trying to see the way in which God created the world and how he relates to its falleness on that basis.

  9. Ben February 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    I, too, can only briefly chime in (I’m leaving on a retreat), but it seems to me that if we are reading the text prima facie, that God accomplished His prediction by hardening Ph’s heart.

    I know that brings up other issues, but the question as framed seems to ignore the rest of the story. God’s willingness to “make” Pharaoh do has He pleased is far more thorny than the issue of libertarian free will vs God’s infallibility. It’s almost like insider trading…

  10. Paul February 20, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    I usually stay out of these conversations, as I am simply a jazz musician that loves God. Nothing more, nothing less. Most of the people on this board can debate the philosophy of religion far more effectively than I’ll ever be able.

    That said, I think Ben hit the nail on the head here. God, at the very least, seems to set the ball a rollin’, knowing exactly what the end results will be.

    That brings up another question as far as I’m concerned…

    At the last supper, Jesus breaks bread with Judas, and THEN the holy spirit leaves Judas. Is this to say that Judas was a pawn used to validate prophecy? And if that’s the case, how can a just God keep Judas out of heaven? After all, wouldn’t you freak out and hang yourself if you knew that you just had God incarnate killed?

  11. MatthewS February 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Denny,

    How much room do you allow for paradox?

    A question from nature: Is light a particle or a wave? It can’t be both, because waves don’t have mass but particles do.

  12. Denny Burk February 20, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    MatthewS,

    I don’t believe the Bible teaches anything approaching libertarian free will, so I do not find a paradox in the same place the Arminians might find one (though I would affirm that the scripture contains paradoxes, e.g., Matthew 16:25). When I read scripture, I see too many texts that indicate that the human will is bound by the nature of the human. To put it another way, human freedom is limited by human depravity (e.g., Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18).

    Libertarian human freedom proposes that a moral agent is free so long as, for whatever choice he makes, he could have chosen differently. Yet all humans have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and they in fact did not have the ability to choose otherwise. Biblically speaking, the libertarian view does not stand.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  13. David Rogers February 20, 2009 at 5:14 pm #

    Quick question.

    Do humans who sin have any ability to choose the particular sins that fall short of the glory of God?

    Libertarian free will to choose lust rather than murder?

  14. David Rogers February 20, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    A few more.

    Did God make it certain that my nature would shape my desire to be opposed to Calvinism?

    Do my non-Calvinism beliefs come from the nature that I have that God certainly wanted in me?

    Does my non-Calvinism serve the glory of God since He certainly insured that it exist in me at this particular moment?

    Won’t I remain a non-Calvinist until God desires to glorify himself by making it certain that I will convert to Calvinism?

    For now, all glory to God that I am a non-Calvinist?

  15. Adam Omelianchuk February 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Nick has it right. The issue at hand is whether divine foreknowledge is compatible with human freedom. Those that hold to an “incompatibilist” position (Calvinism) might argue:

    1) Necessarily, if God foreknows X, then X will happen

    2) God foreknows X

    3) Therefore, X will necessarily happen

    But the argument is fallacious. The correct conclusion should be

    3′) Therefore, x will happen.

    The premises do not contain anything about how X MUST happen, only that it SHALL happen. This in no way is incompatible with God’s infallible foreknowledge.

    William Lane Craig notes that that this fallacy stems from conflating certainty with necessity. For more, see Divine Foreknowledge: 4 Views (esp. pgs 126-127)

  16. Micah February 20, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

    so somebody help me out here who is well versed in the tenets Calvinism…

    Would it be incorrect to say that if we don’t have the ability to choose that we are essentially just puppets controlled by God?? If this is not true, help me understand where the statement is wrong.

    Micah

  17. Chris Garner February 20, 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    Wow! There are a lot more anti-Calvinists commenting than I would have imagined!

    I’m not adding to the debate, just making an observation.

  18. Chris Garner February 20, 2009 at 6:16 pm #

    Micah,

    This may be helpful…

  19. Gavin February 20, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    Denny,

    I have had trouble answering the question you posed in your post without sounding illogical.

    For example, I suggested to someone that the following argument is valid:

    P1 – If God foreknows that I will do x, then I will do x

    P2 – God foreknows that I will do x.
    Conclusion – Necessarily, I will do x.

    In so many words, the person responded by saying that I had committed the Scope Fallacy

    He contended that all that follows from the conditional (P1) is that I will do x, and that I could have done otherwise. Therefore “Necessarily, I will do x” doesn’t follow.

    I still contend that God’s foreknowledge is such that it will not fit into any category to which symbolic logic strictly applies…but I’m having a difficult time arguing (logically) for my position, which is:

    NO, the Israelites and Moses could not have acted differenly based upon God’s foreknowledge/prediction of how they would in fact act.

    Gavin

  20. Gavin February 20, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

    I was just reading through the entire thread, and was surprised to see Adam (comment #15) cite the same example I used.

    Adam is making exactly the same argument that I would like to invalidate.

    Interestingly, the same person who flagged me for my (supposedly:) fallacious argument is also a student of William Lane Craig, who has, I will admit, constructed an impressive free will defense.

  21. Russ Ware February 20, 2009 at 6:51 pm #

    This is so much more a matter of philosophical conundrum and speculation than theology. We humans love to grapple with this stuff, but we should be careful in letting it distort our view of God and his redemptive work.

    I don’t think the biblical narrative was given for us to figure this one out. If it was, it is failing miserably to do so.

    In no sense does scripture emphatically teach total depravity, limited atonement, or irresistible grace.

    But there are plenty of things that scripture does teach us emphatically. Let’s get busy! 🙂

  22. Benjamin A February 20, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    Dear David, you asked a few questions. I hope these answers help ease your concerns.

    Q: Did God make it certain that my nature would shape my desire to be opposed to Calvinism?
    A: Don’t blame God for your faulty logic. Not even Calvin would do that.

    Q: Do my non-Calvinism beliefs come from the nature that I have that God certainly wanted in me?
    A: No- those beliefs are a holdover from your unredeemed nature.

    Q: Does my non-Calvinism serve the glory of God since He certainly insured that it exist in me at this particular moment?
    A: YES. Though it’s a bit paradoxical, even non-Calvinistic believers like yourself will somehow be used to serve the glory of God.

    Q: Won’t I remain a non-Calvinist until God desires to glorify himself by making it certain that I will convert to Calvinism?
    A: God’s desire isn’t to convert you into a Calvinist. He’s at work in you to make you become more like Jesus Christ. So just relax. As God is at work in you to that end, becoming a Calvinist will just happen naturally.

    Again, I sincerely hope this is helpful and I hope have a sense of humor!

  23. Chris Garner February 20, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    Russ,

    Would you say the same thing about the method of baptism? We’ve been going around that subject just as long. Just because we finite humans can’t agree on something does not necessarily mean that we’re not supposed to figure it out (or at least attempt).

    cheers 🙂

  24. David Rogers February 20, 2009 at 8:14 pm #

    Dear Benjamin A

    Thanks for responding to my questions, however, I don’t think any of your responses actually answer the questions from a Calvinist perspective (i.e. as far as I understand Calvinism). Please elaborate more.

    Please illuminate how my logic is faulty, even though I made no argumentation, I only asked questions.

    I sincerely and humbly disagree that becoming more like Jesus will lead to becoming a Calvinist. I understand your point, but I am unconvinced that Calvinism is the “natural” outcome to becoming more like Jesus.

    Are the following Calvinist beliefs?

    (a) God determines all things.

    (b) God makes all things that happen certain to happen.

    (c) God is the ultimate initiator of all events.

    Note: I’m not saying these things ARE Calvinist, I asking IF they are from those who claim Calvinism as their belief system.

    I won’t be able to respond to any response probably until tomorrow (Saturday).

    Thanks.

    David Rogers

    P.S.

    I do have a sense of humor.

    P.P.S.

    Did anybody see the show “Heroes” this week? It had an interesting scenario that illustrated compatibilistic free will but also, in my opinion, demonstrates how that philosophical position does not erase the taint of evil from God.

  25. RAP February 20, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    Foreknowledge is something God has…

    Predestination is something God does…

    Man can only operate in the nature he has, thus if a natural man is presented with things of the Spirit (faith, belief, repentance, etc.), he will not discern them and he will not desire them for they will be foolish to him and thus he will will himself away from them. Therefore, Pharaoh and all people run from God, do not understand God, do not seek after God, for his heart is dead. The natural man is ruled by the flesh, thus Pharaoh was ruled by the flesh and only desired the things of the flesh… Pharaoh willed what his thoughts and desires led him to do just as we do. But God, being rich in mercy made some people alive so they could discern the things of the Spirit and because faith, belief and repentance are all gifts by God, we who believe were given the ability to exercise them.

    Israel chose God because God willed for them to choose Him… otherwise they would have rebelled just as Pharaoh had. God would have His will accomplished and it is always thus so.

    Pharaoh chose against God because God not only foreknew that he would, but God willed for it to be thus so.

    God would redeem a people. Pharaoh would be hardened.
    God would get the glory for grace and justice.

    Do not assume that your salvation is fair. If we get fair, then we get hell. Pharaoh could not have chosen any way then the way he could have, because given the righteous option… in his natural state, he would always rebel against a Sovereign Holy God.

    We are free to choose as far as our nature is concerned. We must be given first a new nature to be able to choose the righteous things of God.

    Robert Palculict

  26. John Holmberg February 20, 2009 at 8:37 pm #

    “Biblically speaking” the Calvinistic view falls flat on its face time and time again. “Biblically speaking” libertarian free-will is impossible to deny. “Biblically speaking” limited atonement, irresistible grace, and unconditional election are absent.

    “Biblically speaking” is another way of saying my view is right and yours is wrong. It’s amazing how much we use that adjective to make our opinion authoritative. In this case, Denny has no evidence (especially not the text he posted), so he has to say “biblically speaking” to prove his point since no substance to his argument can be found in scripture and his philosophical sense is “totally depraved.”

  27. Russ Ware February 20, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Chris,

    I do think baptism is another good example. It’s an issue of a different nature to be sure, but I don’t expect we’ll all get on the same page any time soon. I think that’s OK since regardless of theology, basically all Christian sub-traditions hold baptism to be a ‘requirement’ in some sense, while not strictly necessary for salvation. Even RCC dogma holds baptism as normatively but not absolutely essential to salvation in the strictest sense.

    Nevertheless, the scripture does speak more emphatically on this point:

    Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
    1 Peter 3.21

    😉

    The New Testament tells us to repent and be baptized, so that’s what we (my family) has done. Then we are told to go and make disciples… and ‘baptize them.’

    So again… let’s get busy! We can sort out all the theology later (like when we’re in heaven and Jesus gives us the answer… if he wants to, and if we still even care) 🙂

  28. Everett February 20, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

    Denny,

    Hey! Just wanted to contribute to the lively conversation here a little before hitting the hay. Part (again only part) of the issue revolving around Libertarianism vs. Determinism is that both views must draw lines for the purpose of punting. Libertarians who affirm full divine omniscience must punt because they cannot articulate a fully satisfactory way of reconciling the fact that God’s divine foreknowledge perfectly aligns with what humans freely choose to do without divine coercion. While on the other hand, determinists punt in that they cannot ultimately reconcile how God can determine what a human will choose to do and that person still be held accountable for their actions as being committed freely. At the end of the day though, it appears that Paul punts in Romans 9 over this issue and so consequently, I’ll kick instead of calling another play. Just some thoughts.

    God bless you and proud to hear you preach in chapel at Southern.

  29. Russ Ware February 21, 2009 at 2:33 am #

    Chris,

    I just realized that your comment regarding baptism was related simply to method. I should have read more carefully. Assuming proper form (Trinitarian) and substance (water), I don’t see the method as a substantial issue. So, no, I don’t think we are supposed to try to ‘figure it out.’ It is not a good use of our time and intellectual energy to seek a solution for a non-problem. 🙂

  30. Derek February 21, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    For many years, I’ve been fascinated by the responses of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar. In both of these men’s lives, God demonstrated patience with them by giving them many warnings before giving them progressively worse judgments. Both were extremely stubborn in their own ways. And yet, for some reason, Nebuchadnezzar finally relented and acknowledged God’s authority over Him, while Pharaoh never broke.

    Isn’t it possible to see that WITHIN God’s sovereignty, God choose to bring them both to the breaking point – to the cliff’s edge, so to speak – but that WITHIN His sovereignty, He refused to make the decision Himself? (Yes, I’m addressing the issue of irresistible grace)

    And doesn’t God ask the same of us? When we see our total depravity and His total Sovereignty, will we bow the knee like Nebuchadnezzar finally did, or will we harden our heart one final time like Pharaoh did?

  31. Derek February 21, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Re: Everett, post 28 –

    You said:
    Libertarians who affirm full divine omniscience must punt because they cannot articulate a fully satisfactory way of reconciling the fact that God’s divine foreknowledge perfectly aligns with what humans freely choose to do without divine coercion.

    Everett, since God operates outside of the confines of time and space and knows everything that will happen in the future, why is it strange to think that God has complete foreknowledge of our lives? I don’t understand how this is “punting”.

    To me, the toughest nut a libertarian has to crack is how to address how it is:
    On one hand we cannot save ourselves and yet God holds us accountable at the end of our lives.

    That is why the cliff analogy is helpful to me (post 30). Put in other terms, we are stranded on a desert island and God has sent us a life boat and has given us an awareness that we cannot leave the island without the boat He provided, but it is still our decision whether or not to get in – He will not force us to get into the boat (though He knows what we will decide).

  32. Nathan February 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    This whole post is somewhat spurious. When God speaks and says something WILL happen, to argue that it will not is to argue that God is not God. To then crossover and say that Calvinists agree with God’s divine sovereignty and an Arminian’s view of libertarian free will is proven inadequate is merely an attempt to justify a particular point of view.

    Let me ask the question a different way. Were you free to choose a different set of clothes than the ones you actually put on this morning?

    If you answer yes, does that mean God did not sovereignly control every aspect of the world this morning? If you answer no, does that mean you have no control over your actions at all?

    This is such a circular argument, but a few points can be certain for those who believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God.

    1. God does what He wills
    2. We do not always know what God wills
    3. The bible says that we have free will
    4. The bible says that God presdestines and foreknows all
    5. To attempt to reconcile things we cannot understand fully leads to assumptions that can never be fully vetted

    To summarize: When God, through Scripture, allows us a glimpse of further prophetic utterances, we should be grateful and praise Him for His divine sovereignty. To assume that the specific examples given have some basis in reality for all other situations in life is assuming we can have the mind of God.

    Hence, some Calvinists are always stuck attempting to prove that God’s sovereignty is not full determinism. Likewise, some Arminians are always stuck attempting to show free will when it is clear that God made man do something.

    Neither side can prove the other fully right or fully wrong.

  33. Tom Fuerst February 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Denny,
    Am I to understand you correctly, that human sin (in the Garden) was predetermined/decided/foreordained by God?

    B/c if so, I see absolutely no scriptural basis for such a conclusion…in fact, I would see in Genesis 3, (that is, biblically speaking) no indication whatsoever of divine predetermination…only that humans made a wicked decision against God.

    And AGAIN, Arminians TOO believe in the falleness of humanity. They just believe God overcame it, not through dictation, but through prevenient grace. So we need to be more careful with how we frame the Arminian position…they believe all have sinned in Adam, just as Calvinists; and they believe all are slaves to sin, just like Calvinists.

    It betrays either a misunderstanding of Arminianism or a complete refusal to acknowledge the ‘similarities’ between the two systems, when we keep pretending or speaking as if Arminians are Pelagian.

  34. Tom Fuerst February 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    Adam #15 – Just a minor note of clarification…unless I’ve misunderstood what you were saying:

    Calvinists are the ones who hold to a ‘Compatibilist’ position…it is the Arminians who are the incompatibilists. Calvinists maintain that humans make free decisions AND those decisions are determined by God. Thus, free will and determination are ‘Compatible.’

  35. Tom Fuerst February 21, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

    John #26 – You’re absolutely right on with your comment. It’s like ‘biblically speaking’ is the trump card that can never win! B/c it says ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ BUT it never actually convinces anyone that I’m right!

    Cheers.

  36. Everett February 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Hey Derek.
    Great engagement. My point in the punt is that a libertarian may concede that while God knows who will choose to leave the island, that group could have chosen to stay. And so there is a tension in that God knows something with certainty while at the same time allowing for volitional contingency. This is the punt which many libertarians are willing to live with and timelessness hasn’t solved the issue. This is indeed why some libertarians have moved to open theism.
    Thanks again for the engagement.

  37. Adam Omelianchuk February 21, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    RE #34

    Tom, you wrote:

    Adam #15 – Just a minor note of clarification…unless I’ve misunderstood what you were saying:

    Calvinists are the ones who hold to a ‘Compatibilist’ position…it is the Arminians who are the incompatibilists. Calvinists maintain that humans make free decisions AND those decisions are determined by God. Thus, free will and determination are ‘Compatible.’

    ME: Hold on, because things are about to get confusing! Calvinists are “compatibilists” with regard to human freedom, but they are incompatibilists with regard to divine foreknowledge. The issue we are talking about is whether God can have infallible knowledge of future free actions in the libertarian sense. Calvinists deny libertarianism, and further believe that God’s foreknowledge of our decisions is strong evidence against our having libertarian freedom. Therefore, they are incompatiblists.

    Ironically, so are open theists. Hasker has a famous argument against God’s exhaustive foreknowledge involving cheese omelets and a guy named Clarence.

    Arminians and molinists argue that God’s foreknowledge and libertarian actions are compatible (see my comment above), and are called “compatiblists.” I know this is confusing, but it is how the terms flip flop in the foreknowledge debate.

  38. Tom Fuerst February 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    Thanks Adam…I guess I wasn’t actually aware the terms flip-flopped like that. The only sense I’ve ever heard/read the terms is with freedom and determinism, not freedom and foreknowledge. So I was confused when I read what you wrote.

    But, as I said, I detected there was a possibility I was misunderstanding you. Thanks for clarifying, brother.

  39. Sandy February 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    Well, after reading most of this thread (the parts I could understand as a layperson, as opposed to being a Bible scholar or theologian), I have concluded that Denny got up a little too bored on February 20 or he thought his students and friends needed a challenge for their complacency in their doctrinal stances. For whatever reason, the proverbial can of worms has been opened. Now, as an innocent layperson, I feel compelled to make a contribution to the confusion. I state a disclaimer at the outset, as Chaucer did in The Canterbury Tales. He said he was just writing what he saw and heard, none of it was his knowledge because he was “short of wit as you understand”(even while he skillfully worked his satire on almost every religious and governmental institution of the Middle Ages). My disclaimer is that I am an ignorant layperson; my reality is that I am a child of God who has been illuminated as needed doctrinally and theologically by the Holy Spirit in my daily walk through Bible study and others’ teachings. I don’t know the jargon, only the reality of revelation I’ve been given.

    With that said, I lean toward Nick’s and Tom’s arguments. My simplistic answer to your questions, Denny, go along the following vein:
    The Israelites and Pharaoh were free to choose other courses of action. A key phrase in your question is “God infallibly predicted.” God is not a soothsayer or medium. He doesn’t predict; He knows. I don’t predict I will hit the ground if I fall from the top of a building; I know. I don’t predict the tide will come in and go out; I know that will happen every day. Given the laws of nature, which are constant, I can be assured of that knowledge. God’s knowledge is unfathomable, however. He is not limited by time or space. He knows the future, past, and present, all at the same time. He knows the choices we will make, and He knows the cries for deliverance and help that will rise from his children. He knows the changes He will make in answer. Our finite minds cannot follow the trail of consequences for every option in our lives, but He sees THE trail that is ultimately taken from the myriad of options for each human being that ever lived. How can we even pretend to understand and explain that?? It is as though at the same time, He exists in the year 400 B.C. and A.D. 2050. I can’t begin to talk about predestination, election, and free will in that context, a context that is beyond my understanding.
    How can I think that God can only follow one track, one which He predestined for His creation to follow as robots through their dull puppet-like existence. No! I cannot believe that. Although God’s character never changes, He created beings and put in them a free will. Therein lies the richness of the creation. He wanted man, a creature who with free will would choose to obey and serve Him, not one He made who was predetermined to obey and serve Him. What would be the point of that?

    I believe I am about twice your age. The older I get the more I see clearly the bottom lines in life’s issues. No time to play around with blacks, whites, and grays…just bottom lines. Not ever having been in the academia circles of theological and doctrinal debates, I cannot discern the point in this instance. Let’s say the line in the dirt is drawn. All of you Arminians cluster on one side and all you Calvinists group on the other side. Let’s list your differences in your calling and in your obedience to our Lord on the following issues and watch the line: salvation by grace, the shed blood for propitiation, the virgin birth for deity, the death, the burial, the resurrection, the ascension, The Great Commission, second coming, works as outgrowth of being saved by grace……Uh, where is that line??? Is it fading?? “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.” Teach them what?? Arminianism? Calvinism? Neither makes a fig of difference in the bottom line. Just DO IT because He said to…go teach and preach the GOSPEL before it is too late for so many. When you get there, just ask Him who was right. But, focus on making that privilege possible for as many lost people in the world today as you can touch with your life. Oh, yes, all you bloggers don’t need to feel compelled to offer rebuttal, because I probably would not be able to understand your argument.

  40. Steve February 23, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    John @ 26

    I sometimes wonder if God put Calvinists on the planet to remind everyone else or our need to seek humility in our interactions with the unregenerate.

  41. Tom Fuerst February 23, 2009 at 1:17 am #

    Well said, Sandy. Don’t underestimate yourself…you maybe a layperson, but you just spoke truths so deep that theologians might drown in them!…thus, you are anything but “ignorant.”

  42. Cal H February 23, 2009 at 4:17 am #

    My references are to two posts way farther up on this long list:
    1. If we have a def. of Arminianism (given by a Calvinist…hmmmm..) I really would like a definition of compatibalistic (by ANYBODY, Calvinist or not). I’ve been a believer for over 40 years, have MDiv & DMin and honestly have NEVER heard that term! I gather that it means that how God chooses for me is going to be compatible with how I would have chosen anyway, but that is not obviously clear.

    2. The Mark Driscoll video is an example of exactly why I reject Calvinism! Limited atonement for me is a huge problem, biblically. Driscoll says, “God so loved the world that he saved SOME?” The type of thinking he represents would make me terrified that I never could know whether or not I am saved. HAS God chosen me? Or is this thing I THINK is faith in the Lord who saved me just filthy rags and I am still going to hell. It may be filthy rags in terms of it’s worth when compared to God’s love, but I cling to the promise that God is true to his Word and that if I have responded to his offer of grace (which I have) than I am in a redeeming relationship with him thanks to his blood.

    Maybe I’m missing the point, but I find Driscoll’s presentation (while emotional) horribly offensive. (And please don’t start down the “offense of the cross” road. That’s not what we’re talking about).

  43. Tom Fuerst February 23, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    Denny,

    Since you’ve posted again, I know you’ve seen my question. So I want to ask it again because I think it gets to the heart of the issue:

    Am I to understand you correctly, that human sin (in the Garden) was predetermined/decided/foreordained by God?

  44. Ryan Kearns February 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm #

    Am I missing something here, but where did the notion come from that you have to be in agreement with something in order to define it? I am truly baffled by this idea.

    Why does Ware need to ascribe to a certain view of freedom in order to prescribe it a definition?

    Should we only let Mormons tell us what they mean by salvation? (this gets hazy if you have ever tried.)

    Should we only let a Nazi tell us what Hitler believed?

    I know these may sound extreme but I am just not sure what to make of this concept.

  45. Steve February 23, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    Ryan @ 44

    As your examples suggests: It is preferable to allow adherents of a position the privilege of defining their terms so that the terms have the best chance of withstanding scrutiny (which may rightly and decisively follow). Exceptions may be made when the audience agrees that the adherents are crackpots.

  46. Tom Fuerst February 23, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    And, as Arminians are not crackpots, and have repeatedly nuanced their definition of Libertarian Freedom, there is no reason not to use their definition…afterall, they’re not Mormons or Nazi’s!

    The main point I was making in my original observation of this was the Bruce Ware is not a disinterested person in this conversation. It’s not that his definition was necessarily faulty, it would just look better, if nothing else, to quote straight from the horses mouth.

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