Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Good illustrations.....

I love it when a Christian (In this case a Calvinist) is able to take the deeper things regarding salvation, free will and irresistible grace, and just explain it with simple illustrations. Warms the cockles of my heart it does!
The comments below are from a recent thread at Steve Gregg's forum found here.

Hi Sean,

Sean wrote:
I would like to focus on this point and ask a question:

bshow1 wrote:
We say that in each case, the men acted freely, because there actions were not compelled by any external force making them do what they did.

Bob, in our other discussions you were arguing for determinism and against free will.

Against libertarian free will. I believe that we have compatibilistic free will (although most who hold to libertarianism do not accept that there can be any other kind of free will).

Sean wrote:
If God foreknew something (like the events of Acts 2:23 for example) it must be a "true" condition. If it does not come to pass then God "would have held a false belief" and this cannot be the case.

Yes, given the definition of what it means for God to know something. God holds no false beliefs, and does hold all true beliefs (omniscience). This is what I was trying to get to in our discussion over the passage about Saul and David.

Sean wrote:

So whatever God "knows" or foreknows must be true and come to pass as long as some form of determinism is true.

I would say must come to pass, period. Determinism provides the only coherent basis for God's foreknowledge of future events.

Sean wrote:

So, if God knew in advance the events of the men who turned over and crucified Christ then how can you say these men acted freely? And that their actions were not compelled by any external force as to make them do what they did.

By external force, I mean some force acting outside of the realm of the men's wills or against their wills. No external force was compelling them to do what they didn't want to do. The men did what they did freely because they acted willfully and deliberately out of their own desires. That is compatibilism, which is what I was seeking to explain in the citation of this passage.

Sean wrote:
If God knows "X" as a true condition then it must take place, correct? How can one (in the Calvinist system) freely choose if they don't have a choice?

Well again, you presuppose that libertarian freedom is the only possible freedom. I say that one chooses freely if one can choose according to one's desires. The fact that the alternate choice is excluded by God's decree does not affect this.

Here's an illustration: Suppose that you strawberry ice cream. It's your favorite. Now suppose that I set before you two dishes: one containing strawberry ice cream, and one containing spinach, which you detest. I mean, you really hate it don't want anything to do with it. I then ask you to choose one.

How will you make your choice? According to your desire. You will choose the ice cream and reject the spinach. Now, suppose that God has decreed that you will choose the ice cream and not the spinach. The alternate choice has been removed (although the bowls are sitting there and I still ask you to choose one and you still need to choose one). Will the basis for your choice be changed? Not at all; you will still pick the ice cream, and for the same reason. Will there be some invisible force moving your hand to the bowl of ice cream, compelling you to take it? No; no such force is necessary, because you want to take the ice cream. So if you take it because you want to take it and nothing forces you to take it, then I am saying you take it freely.

Well, you say, suppose that God had decreed that you choose the spinach instead of the ice cream? Before we consider that, let's consider the case that I (not God) wanted you to choose the spinach. How could I do it? I could pull out a gun and threaten to shoot you unless you pick the spinach. That's the external force of compulsion. In a sense, you still choose according to your desire; it's just that your desire to live is greater than your desire to avoid spinach.

Or, I could make an appeal to some other desire you have. I might argue that the spinach is lower in fat and higher in vitamins and is better for your health. Again, you choose according to your desires; perhaps your desire to be healthy overcomes your dislike of spinach and you take the spinach anyway.

But let's return to God's decree. God could use the methods I might use. But God is your creator, and He has another way He can work: He can change your heart. He can turn you from a spinach hater into a spinach lover. If he were to do that, you would choose the spinach freely because your desire would be for the spinach. In this way, God's decree again is compatible with your free, unforced choice.

How does this illustration relate to salvation? The ice cream represents sin, and the spinach represents the gospel. By nature, we all love sin and always freely choose sin over loving God. The Arminian sees God as working like my appeal to health. He woos you and tries to show you how choosing Him is better than the alternative. Those who agree choose Him. The Calvinist, on the other hand, believes that such appeals won't work, given our deadness in sin. We don't need wooing, we need resurrection. We need God to change us from sin lovers to God lovers, so that we freely run to Him instead of toward the sin we used to love. Those that are so changed by Him will freely embrace the gospel, because He has changed them at the level of their desires, so that they want to come to Him. No external force is needed to compel them, because they have no desire to resist coming to Him.

Sean wrote:

How would my saying that although God knows who are His yet I believed the gospel freely, without being compelled to by an outside force be any different that what you just said?

If that was all you said, there wouldn't be any difference. I believe that I freely chose to follow Christ, but that God's choice preceded and determined my choice. There was no outside force compelling my choice, I wanted to choose Him.

Just as those who betrayed and crucified Christ freely chose to do so according to their evil desires, and yet God's choice preceded and determined their choice, as the passage explains.

But of course, that's not all you've said...


No comments: